This is a movie that is competent on the mechanics of it’s genre but lacking in originality. Though a substandard script can be elevated through true effort in the other elements.
The Curse of La Llorona is about a ghost from long ago that was scorned and now torments the living by praying upon families. Her latest victim is the Garcia family. Anna is a single mother who’s also a social worker, when she checks in on one of her clients that has locked her two boys in a closets and violently attacks her when she inquires whats inside she is taken away. All this seems like the perfectly sane thing to do but this is a horror movie so not all is as it seems, the boys are killed and Anna has inadvertently caught the attention of La Llorona, so begins the proses of denying, researching, surviving and then exercising the ghost, or they all die, it’s gotta be one or the other.
Everyone here is a fine actor but the biggest one is Linda Cardenelli as Anna. She has to do a lot in this movie and she does them all very well. But one thing she excels at is being scared and brave at the same time. There is one moment early on where La Llorona pays her and her family a visit and she is terrified that this spectre has suddenly appeared, she grabs a baseball bat and warns the spirit away, she is clearly terrified but also ready to defend her home and her family. These are two heavy emotions that are difficult to convey effectively by themselves and to balance the two of them at the same time deserves great praise. Which has been paid.
La Llorona herself is a suitable monster movie. She wears a white wedding dress which the production designers have kept in-mind so she pops within her surroundings and gives a distinguishable silhouette. She also comes with grey, veiny skin that is revealed in close-ups that adds a disturbing element.
I have to admit that I wasn’t scared during this movie. It got my heart pumping a few times but that’s just because something really loud suddenly happens when there was a long stretch of quiet. That isn’t scary, if someone sounded a horn while you were quietly reading a book would that be scary? No, it would just be something unexpected. These jump scare tactics and they only really work for one viewing. When you see it again you know when the thing will go “Boo!” and you’re not really engaged and just seeing the events unfold.
Though to be fair, like slapstick there is an art to jump scares, they both require understanding and delivery of setup, passing and delivery. Someone is going about an activity, the camera follows them and also conveys something else within their environment that will be important later on, a sound or movements thats a little out of the ordinary gets the characters attention, they observe or investigate and when they are reaching or walking towards it there are a good few moments of silence, at this point the thing will either go “Boo!” now or it will be fine, defusing the situation only to have the thing go “Boo!” from behind them.
Whenever you make a story about something supernatural the story isn’t really or shouldn’t be about the supernatural element. The supernatural serves as a metaphor for the deeper human fear. This one is about the fear of harm being done to your children and your house being broken into.
Throughout this movie you buy that the characters are scared. This is the right decision, if we are to be along for the ride with these characters then they need to feel things and we see them and empathise with them engage with that. If theres is some kind of a threat and the characters don’t take it seriously, be it a monster or some kind of disaster then we as an audience won’t.
This is a horror movie that isn’t really scary but it does know it’s craft, has a heart and has a truly endearing performance in Linda Cardenelli. It’s good for one watch but sometimes a good enough first watch is enough to be satisfied and get your moneys worth.