Movie Review: “The Curse of La Llorona”
The Curse of La Llorona
Anna (Linda Cardellini) works for child protective services, and is working an odd case. Two kids are very clearly being abused and, while their mother (Patricia Velasquez) is claiming to be protecting her kids, all signs point to the her as being the one who is abusing them. There are burn marks on the kids’ arms, and she locks her children in a small closet at night. It seems like a pretty cut and dry case but, when the kids are put in great danger with their mother nowhere to be found, Anna starts to think there might be more to this story.
Weird things start happening around Anna’s house. Her kids start seeing a strange woman and, when her kids get mysteriously familiar burn marks on their arms, Anna starts to believe the abusive mother may have been innocent. More importantly, she believes her kids are in great danger. She learns the story of La Llorona (Marisol Ramirez). La Llorona was a beautiful woman who lost her children in a terrible turn of events. Long after her death, she still roams the earth searching for children to replace her own. Now, she has her sights set on Anna’s children.
The Pros & Cons
Linda Cardellini (+5pts)
Obliviousness & Dumb Decisions (-4pts)
The Shaman & The Church (+5pts)
La Llorona (-6pts)
The End (-4pts)
Pro: Linda Cardellini (+5pts)
I did not hate the movie, but Linda Cardellini made it feel more than a straight-to-television horror movie. She made the threat feel real, she conveyed her character's love for her children, and she conveyed her character's feeling of helplessness. Without a strong performance from the movie’ lead, it would have been hard for me to care about what was going on. Linda Cardellini delivered a performance that made me invested in the characters, as well as the danger that they were in.
Later in this review, I will get into my issues with the primary antagonist. All I will say here is that I did have issues with her, and that those issues could have made the threat feel less severe. The performance from Linda Cardellini, in addition to making me care about the protagonists, made the threat feel serious. Her performance was strong, but it never felt like "too much". She added just enough drama to make the danger feel relevant, while making the characters feel important, but not so much drama that it ever felt like she was over doing it.
Con: Obliviousness & Dumb Decisions (-4pts)
Linda Cardellini may have been in this movie, but this was far from Velma using her book smarts to solve a mystery. There were some pretty obvious clues that something mysterious and sinister was going on, but (in an attempt to drag out the supsense) the filmmakers made the main character oblivious to a lot of pretty obvious signs. I will not go into details to avoid spoilers, but know that the main character took way too long to figure out what was going on. Additionally, the side characters (the children and the shaman), consistently made dumb decisions for no reason other than for the filmmakers to keep the threat of the movie alive (where some good decisions would have ended the movie much sooner). I always hate when filmmakers use their characters' poor decision making as a plot device to move the story in a specific direction. It is just lazy writing, and the filmmakers of this movie did just that.
Pro: The Shaman & The Church (+5pts)
Too many horror movies focus on christianity, or priests. Characters of too many movies are going on with their ordinary lives, then supernatural things start going down, so they call a priest. The priest then seems to have all the answers. We all know how that story goes, as we have seen that story before, but this movie goes in a slightly different direction, which was refreshing.
Rather than the priest having all the answers, Anna ends up going to a ”shaman”. This guy was once a priest, but is no longer, for reasons that the movie explains. As such, he has an unorthodox way of doing things. It was unorthodox to the characters in the story but, most importantly, it was a bit unorthodox to the audience as well. I liked the character, and I liked the actor playing the character (Raymond Cruz). In a movie that could have felt very typical, this character gave the story some unique flavor.
Con: La Llorona (-6pts)
Unfortunately, my least favorite part of this movie was the main antagonist, and titular character. I did, however, like the setup for her. There was just enough back story to explain who was in danger and how much danger they were in, but not enough backstory that it ruined the antagonist. What did ruin the antagonist, was the fact that she did not do anything.
As the movie goes on, the character feels like less and less of a threat. She consistently scares the protagonists, but consistently has the opportunity to do more (yet does not). What is scarier? A person who you know will scare you if they get the chance, or a person who you know will kill you if they get the chance. Now I am not speaking to the end of the movie here, but La Llorona did not do anything noteworthy during the entire rising action, which made her feel like a lackluster horror movie monster.
Pro: Patricia (+3pts)
This character played a role that we do not normally see in a horror movie. The movie started with Patricia protecting her children from La Llorona. However, when child protective services show up, they believe Patricia is crazy and is harming her children. I liked this storyline because we, the audience, know that Patricia is just as much a victim as the other characters in the story. However, she is treated as the villain of her own story.
I also liked where her story went after this, as well as her justifiable motives against those who she felt were responsible. The only thing I did not like about this character was the ending, as I did not think the filmmakers had earned it yet. Other than that, this character worked so well because she was unique, with compelling motivations, and was the wild card in Anna’s story. I just wished the filmmakers gave this character a proper conclusion.
Con: The End (-4pts)
What can I say about the ending without giving it away? Well I already mentioned that I did not like Patricia's involvement with the ending, as I did not think the filmmakers had earned it yet. Other than that, it just felt like the ending was too convenient. Nothing, that the protagonists tried, was anything they could not have done much earlier in the movie.
To take that thought even further, I would go as far as to ask why they did not try that earlier. The ending felt typical, and went pretty much exactly how you would expect it to. The only reason the protagonists did it try this sooner was because the movie would have been far too short, had they done so. Unfortunately, it was just lazy writing. Hopefully I was not too vague here, but I really did not want to spoil anything.
Grade: C- (74pts)
The Curse of La Llorona looked like a very typical horror movie. For the most part, it was, but there were some elements of this story that I thought gave it some unique flavor. Patricia was a unique side character, and played the role of a protective mother who blamed the main character for what happened to her. The shaman played the role that normally goes to a priest character but, by being separated from the church, his methods felt unorthodox (which in turn made this story feel a little more unique). Both of these characters gave this movie unique flavor but, unfortunately, the filmmakers did not focus on them. The filmmakers focused on Anna (played really well by Linda Cardellini). She was a pretty straight-forward character, but her entire mission was to protect her kids (which was an easy thing to get behind).
Linda Cardellini gave Anna a lot more depth than the character called for, which certainly helped, but it was not enough to save the movie. The movie's biggest problem was its titular antagonist, La Llorona. I liked the setup of this antagonist, but thought the execution (meaning how the filmmakers used her in the story) of the antagonist was handled very poorly. It did not feel like she did anything noteworthy in the entire movie. She just popped up here and there to startle the characters of this story. When the climax of the story arrived, it felt like a very typical and lack-luster ending. This did not end up being a "bad" horror movie, in my opinion, but it was nothing special.