Film Review – The Curse of La Llorona (2019)
Warner Bros.’ is quickly learning that you don’t have to do much to make a crap ton of cash from horror movies. All it takes is keeping to a modest budget, employing perfectly competent actors, and having a trailer with a creepy specter and a few incredibly loud jump scares. That’s it! The Curse of La Llorona executed this plan to perfection — it didn’t even matter how the final product turned out.
Still, La Llorona sucks harder than the aliens in Lifeforce:
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Michael Chaves
Written By: Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis
Starring: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velasquez, Marisol Ramirez, Sean Patrick Thomas, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Roman Christou, and Tony Amendola
As a social worker, Anna (Cardellini) encounters what she appears to be child abuse by Patricia Alvarez (Velasquez) and quickly removes Velasquez’s children from their home. But when a terrible fate befalls on Patricia’s children, Anna and her own children begin to experience escalating encounters with a weeping spirit called La Llorona.
Anna does whatever she can to protect her little ones, but she’ll need a little help from some knowledgeable individuals to expunge this demon from her family.
Warner Bros. Wins with Horror
Of the leading studios in Hollywood, Warner Bros. is one of the more diverse, using its vast array of resources to champion many genre films, most notably horror.
If you take the five Conjuring Universe films thus far, they have a combined production budget of $103.5 million, the rough equivalent of a blockbuster film such as Venom or Alien: Covenant. However, the total gross of the Conjuring Universe movies is $1.57 billion, which is almost $500 million more than the combined gross of Venom and Covenant.
Obviously, this isn’t a one-to-one comparison, but it does put into perspective just how well WB does with horror. They even have breakaway hits such as IT outside of the CCU (Conjuring Cinematic Universe). While the quality varies widely from film to film, WB has cracked the code in how to properly deliver a mainstream horror film to as wide of an audience as possible. Unless tastes change drastically, they’ll only get better at it.
Linda Cardellini Needs Better Roles
Linda Cardellini is nothing short of delightful in just about every movie in which she takes part. But recently, her meatier roles as an actress have been on TV. On the big screen, she’s been relegated to underwritten side characters, most notably in the MCU and in Green Book as the wife who is constantly pining for her loved one.
The Curse of La Llorona sees Cardellini in almost the exact opposite scenario as the sole provider of her household who is forced into action to protect her kids. In theory, this is a wonderful change of pace for Cardellini — who offers as much weight to this role as she possibly can — but sadly, what’s on the page isn’t exactly enthralling. An explanation of Cardellini’s character could be attributed to well over half of female-led horror movies. Whatever pathos you get from her is from her performance, not the screenwriting.
Basically, Cardellini needs better material. And unfortunately, with Cardellini playing Mae Capone — the wife of Al Capone — in the upcoming Fonzo starring Tom Hardy, I fear that this ugly trend may continue for her.
La Llorona is Indistinguishable from Other Warner Bros. Horror Movies
Cardellini’s basic character is a microcosm of the entire movie; I’ll have a monumentally difficult time distinguishing The Curse of La Llorona from any of the other mainstream horror films, especially those released by Warner Bros.
Most of these movies have an evil spirit that has vague evil superpowers — none of which have been more vague than the odd tombstone-engraving powers that Valak possessed in The Nun — and puts them up against normal people who are constantly out of their element. These unfortunate people seem helpless as they are dragged across the floor or thrown against the wall as a pale, partially-veiled, and dirty-looking spirit with bright, demonic eyes stalks them in the night. This formula has been used again and again, and it just feels so…tiring.
There is not a single new wrinkle to the formula in La Llorona, even down to the shady, slightly radical supporting character with a heart of gold that helps out the main cast as the shit is about to hit the fan in the third act. You can only watch a demon shriek with an elongated mouth so many times before it literally has no effect.
I’ve said it many times before and I’ll continue to say it: jump scares are not scary in of themselves. They are a shock to the system that quickly fades unless an extended horrific sequence can follow. La Llorona hopes that a sudden bang or loud noise will be enough to scare, but it’s only going to startle…or keep those teenagers in the back of the theater from making out for 90 straight minutes.
I can appreciate a movie going to the Jaws School of Not Showing the Monster Too Much, but The Curse of La Llorona feels as if it’s afraid to show its titular evil force. La Llorona quickly jumps into the frame, yells at an unsuspecting child for approximately seven seconds, and then disappears as the music continues to swell. This is the general framing of each “scary” scene. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Clearly, it’s a problem when a horror movie is light on horror. Without that spine-tingling rush that a horror movie like La Llorona can offer when done properly, it becomes incredibly easy to start nitpicking. If The Curse of La Llorona was genuinely scary, I might not mention that it’s a movie about Mexican folklore that has a white family at its center, or that its monster design is pretty lazy, or that it feels like a knockoff of 172 different movies, OR that there are no rules to the spirit’s powers.
The Curse of La Llorona just isn’t scary. So, well…Re: the last paragraph, I guess.
Containing a spirit with a deadly backstory; a central character leading a broken home; kids that make horrible decisions; side characters with expert knowledge on a niche subject; an endless amount of jump scares; and tie-ins for more movies to come, The Curse of La Llorona is the ultimate average horror movie. It all feels too lazy in the end. I imagine that only the most hardcore of horror junkies will get their fix with this film.
I guess the joke is still on all of us, though, as La Llorona sextupled its production budget in worldwide box office receipts over its opening weekend. Sighs
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