The Conjuring universe has really grown to be a powerhouse horror franchise from the first two Conjuring films to Annabelle to The Nun. The most recent is The Curse of La Llorona, which follows a widowed mother and her two children as they fight for survival against La Llorona (a dark spirit whose desire is to take children). When I saw The Nun, I was so incredibly impressed that I claimed it was the best entry in this franchise yet. This one is not amongst the best., but it’s not as bad as some are making out.
The film opens by giving us some backstory to La Llorona, basically telling us why she wants children. This only lasts a minute or two, then we fast forward to the 70’s, which is when the film takes place. So right off the bat, it’s pretty clear that Linda Cardellini is going to help the film a good bit. I knew she was a talented actress from her previous work but I was really impressed with her portrayal of Anna. There’s a very strong sense of not only fear and desperation, but the mama bear instinct also comes out, which uplifts her performances and makes it feel real. The child actors, Roman Christou and Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, both give great performances. I was impressed by the presence and genuine emotion these two kids were able to convey. I was happy to see Patricia Velasquez; I remember her well from The Mummy Returns. She has a more impactful role than I expected her to have and makes good use out of her screen time.
Tony Amendola is back as Father Perez (the same priest from Annabelle) and he’s good in this role. I mean to be honest there isn’t a hell of a lot for him to do other than explain what’s going on. Like the other supporting characters, he makes good use out of his screen time. Raymond Cruz, plays an ex priest turned shaman that helps the family. Cruz does a really great job portraying the savior role, and even has a couple good comedic moments.
Besides the performances, the other big win for this film is the use of sound. La Llorona’s voice and screams are incredibly creepy and is the scariest thing about the whole thing. There’s a scene where a young boy sees La Llorona and the voice and sounds she makes are very effective.
The look of La Llorona isn’t that scary and none of the jump scares land. The film isn’t chock full of jump scares, but the ones it has fall flat. The only aspect of the entire film that’s creepy/scary is the sound I mentioned, the visuals elicit fear. The narrative is very by the numbers too, not that that automatically makes a film bad, but there just isn’t any new stuff here. I was hoping for a twist of some kind that would spice things up, but it never comes. I think a plot twist or just something more original would’ve boosted the film, it would’ve made up some for the lack of visual scares. It’s somewhat cheesy, but the one visual aspect I actually liked was the lightning strikes; and the sound of those strikes worked nicely with what was going on. As certain sequences are happening, the lightning strikes give it an old school haunted house feel, which works.
The Curse of La Llorona features great performances and boasts killer sound, especially with the voice of La Llorona. Unfortunately, the narrative doesn’t bring anything new or original to the table and the visual scares never land. This is a mixed bag and if you want to see it I’d recommend a matinee or wait until it’s available for rent.
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