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John’s Horror Corner: The Curse of La Llorona (2019), watering down the Conjuring Universe with ill-executed the Mexican folklore of the Weeping Woman.

August 17, 2019

MY CALL: The actors all did fine, the writing was fine, but everything on-screen involving La Llorona felt more watered down than the lack of effective use of the weeping woman’s tears. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Curse of La LloronaWell, The Conjuring (2013; podcast discussion of The Conjuring 2), Annabelle (2014; podcast discussion of Annabelle), The Conjuring 2 (2016), Annabelle: Creation (2017), The Nun (2018) and Annabelle Comes Home (2019) round out The Conjuring Universe.

We are introduced to Anna and her children with a positive yet haphazard energy scrambling to get ready for school and work (Los Angeles, 1973). A social worker, misunderstood widow and single mother Anna (Linda Cardellini; Bloodline, Scooby-Doo 1-2, Strangeland) truly cares about the children and families in her caseload. During a home visit regarding a truancy violation, Anna finds that a superstitious Mexican mother has padlocked her terrified boys into a closet with a glyph-inscribed door.

Of Mexican folklore warning children to listen to their elders, La Llorona (Marisol Ramirez) was the weeping woman who might steal them away to replace her own lost children. Director Michael Chaves (The Conjuring 3) might have fumbled his opening scene (Mexico, 1673) introducing us to La Llorona, but at least he fares very well in doing justice to his heroine. The jump scares, however, are largely just okay, often predictable, and not very “jumpy.” Overall, the “horror” of this horror film feels rather weak, over-telegraphed and uninspired. Were some of the scares a bit fun? Sure. But most disappointed more than entertained.

It was as if the evil spirit herself forgot her own motivation when she’d push a child down the stairs rather than grab him to steal him away, or just stand there menacingly instead of advancing upon her unwitting victim, or grab a child’s wrist to burn them and then disappear. Chaves’ greatest “scare success” (and only marginally so if I’m being honest) was in the tension of the bathtub scene with Anna’s daughter. But Mirrors (2008), Slither (2006), What Lies Beneath (2000), Final Destination (2000), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Shivers (1974) have made bath tubs forever unnerving in the genre. Other minor successes were the clear connection to Annabelle (2014) and the “egg shaman” scene. Both should have landed far better than they did—but still, they were appreciated.

 

Seeking help, Anna turns to Father Perez (Tony Amendola; Annabelle) and Shaman Rafael (Raymond Cruz; Dusk till Dawn 2, Alien: Resurrection, Gremlins 2). In the absence of Elise (Insidious) or the Warrens (The Conjuring), Rafael is our second-rate exorcist. Classic staples such as candles and crucifixes are present, along with rubbing eggs on thresholds and some tongue-in-cheek humor.

Not since Case 39 (2009) has a social worker ended up with such a bad case, and not since Annabelle (2014) or The Nun (2018) have I been so disappointed by a franchise installment in the Conjuring Waniverse. I feel like all the story-writing and characters and acting were good, but everything Llorona-related (on-screen) seemed to fail in execution. The weeping woman’s crying and her very tears even felt forced into scenes, whereas they should have been the deepest and creepiest nuance at the filmmakers’ disposal (if handled properly) for cultivation of dread. Honestly, all this really worries me about The Conjuring 3 (same director). Still, not a bad Friday night popcorn flick for the sake of being entertained and then forgetting all about the movie.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 19, 2019 4:19 pm

    Thanks for the review. This is the only conjuring movie I haven’t seen, but I’m sure my teenager will get me to watch it with her sooner or later. I’ve heard some dreadful stuff about it, so hopefully will be worth a bowl of popcorn.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      August 19, 2019 6:41 pm

      If you already know it’s not very good, I think you’ll have a better chance enjoying it for a few cheap scares. I find it somewhere between Annabelle (2014) and The Nun among the bottom of the Waniverse. What did you think of the recent Annabelle film?

      • August 20, 2019 4:46 pm

        The one with the doll, my teenager loved it. Wife and I thought it was a flop. It had some potential, and a few looooong suspense sequences, but overall I didn’t care for it. There really wasn’t any story, not even a ghost story to it, and the characters were so stereotypical that it seemed forced (like the goodie goodie girl and her friend the rebel).

    • John Leavengood permalink
      August 20, 2019 6:08 pm

      Sigh… I guess I’m glad I didn’t rush to see it in theaters then.

Trackbacks

  1. John’s Horror Corner INDEX: a list of all my horror reviews by movie release date | Movies, Films & Flix
  2. John’s Horror Corner: Annabelle Comes Home (2019), an entertaining but middle-of-the-road contribution to The Conjuring Universe. | Movies, Films & Flix

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