a critiQal film review The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

Plot: In 1970s Los Angeles, the legendary ghost La Llorona (Ramirez) is stalking the night - and the children. Ignoring the eerie warning of a troubled mother (Velasquez), a social worker (Cardellini) and her own kids are drawn into a frightening supernatural realm. Their only hope of surviving La Llorona's deadly wrath is a disillusioned priest (Cruz) who practices mysticism to keep evil at bay.

569 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 50s)
  • ...despite a promising premise, this spin-off horror flick gets boring quick, disappointing viewers and leaving them wondering what could have been.

When we were looking to find something to watch, we ran across a film that had almost escaped our radar entirely: The Curse of La Lloronoa. Knowing this was a spin-off of The Conjuring (2013), we had wanted to watch, but thought we may want to watch the other films in this cinematic universe first (The Conjuring (2013), The Conjuring 2 (2016), Annabelle (2014), Annabelle: Creation (2017), Annabelle Comes Home (2019), The Nun (2018)).  Still, we were craving a bit of horror, so decided to give it a try, hoping our lack of knowledge of the cinematic universe wouldn’t spoil the show.

The actors are decent enough in The Curse of La Lloronoa.  Linda Cardellini, who usually takes a backseat to a male co-star, gets to step up to the spotlight, and doesn’t do a bad job.  The kids, as is typical of most horror flicks, are decent but not stand-outs.  Raymond Cruz steals the spotlight a bit from Cardellini in his role as a ex-priest mystic, but even he seems to be a bit toned down for this show.

The story behind The Curse of La Lloronoa, at first, shows a lot of promise.  A wailing ghost that murders children?  Sounds like the beginning of a good horror flick, doesn’t it?  Alas, that’s not the case. Instead, the viewer is given a cheap thrills horror fest that doesn’t really bring anything new to the table.

The Curse of La Lloronoa seems to showcase more the inequality between “foreign” Americans and white-bred Americans, but only in an off-the-cuff way.  While that seems to be a hot button topic these days, the film merely glances over it without really exploring it (a case of supposed child abuse from a Latino woman causes her kids to be taken away, while the same case causes the social worker to be given another chance).  It’s kind of a blow-off sequence, and viewers will wish there was a bit more of that fear of losing children to the system to compound this mother’s terror – and heighten the suspense of the film.  Will she conquer this demon only to have her kids taken away anyway?  Um, nope.

But that’s not the biggest problem of The Curse of La Lloronoa.  Despite being a film about a wailing ghost legend who murders kids, the whole film has a sense it’s been toned down a bit.  Whether it’s the acting, the story, or even the horror aspect, it’s all been turned down a notch.  And this “turned down” feeling showcases throughout the whole film, creating a shlocky horror film that most anyone will grow bored with.

Having not seen any of the other films in The Conjuring (2013) cinematic universe, watching The Curse of La Lloronoa does nothing to suggest they might be any good.  While the premise is promising, the viewer can’t help walk away from this film wondering what might have been.  Maybe up the crazy on the ex-priest.  Or, make more of the tension of a social worker being caught up in a supposed child abuse case of her own kids.  Something.  Instead, all we are left with is disappointment.

Oh, and our worry about not being able to follow along without seeing the other films in this cinematic universe?  That isn’t a problem in The Curse of La Lloronoa, where the only reference we noticed to any of the other films was brief one-off about a priest’s previous interaction with a doll.

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