La Llorona takes a familiar folktale and tells a deep story. Not to be confused with 2019’s obnoxious The Curse of La Llorona, the movie is a frightening mix of social commentary and gothic horror. But does the mix of real and imagined scares work?
The story focuses on Enrique Monteverde. He is former general of the Guatemalan army accused of the genocide of the country’s indigenous people. While he and his family await his sentence, strange things begin to happen at their home.
La Llorona is not a traditional horror movie steeped in lore. The legend of the wailing woman is more of an allegory than an actual monster here. Monteverde is definitely haunted, but the film hints it goes beyond a ghost story.
This fact is highlighted by the prison he is trapped inside. Monteverde is unable to leave his house. While in the supposed safety of his home, he still cannot escape the chants of the protesters outside. He may be unrepentant, but Monteverde cannot escape his past.
The film also explores human relationships. Most obvious is the dichotomy between the Mayans and the people of Guatemala. It is the equivalent of the upper classes looking down on those beneath them. There is also a heavy undercurrent of women hating each other in it. This is seen most in Enrique’s wife Carmen who seems to dislike all other females.
Which is not to say La Llorona is all about metaphorical scares. Director Jayro Bustamante also brings more visceral horror to the movie. One of the early scenes involves Enrique trying to find the source of a weeping woman only he seems able to hear. There are also many tense moments involving the new maid of the house, Alma.
Bustamante’s masterful camerawork is beautiful. Wonderful use of light and shadow do a great job of adding suspense to many parts. Scenes with large crowds are especially well done. There is a claustrophobic feeling that brings a different type of tension to La Llorona.
Some titles can give an entirely wrong impression of a movie. La Llorona will conjure up names of easy jump scares and shallow stories. However, the story it tells goes well beyond. The film is less about the phantoms that roam houses now and more about the ghosts of the past.