In the beautiful countryside of Mexico, there once lived a gorgeous  woman named Maria. She fell for a rich ranchero, married the man she  loved and had two wonderful kids. Following a rough patch in their  marriage where her husband placed more attention on his children than  his wife, Maria witnessed her husband in the arms of a younger beauty.  In an fit of furious revenge, Maria drowned her two sons in a nearby  river. After she came to her senses and realized the extent of her  actions, she threw herself into those very same waters. That night,  villagers saw a figure sobbing along the banks of the river, wearing  Maria’s burial clothes and crying for the loss of her children. Today,  the weeping woman is said to comb the earth in search of misbehaving  children, luring them to bodies of water after dark to punish them for  their misdeeds.

That is the curse of La Llorona, and while the 2019 rendition that  goes by the same name evokes fear of her dreaded cry, this new addition  to The Conjuring universe does not present many effectively scary tricks even with the spice of a real-world legend.

Narrative inconsistencies that belong in a graveyard

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Terrific writing and fantastic characters can pull plenty of weight  but without an interesting location for that narrative to take place,  the entire story lacks flavor. This happens to be the central problem  with The Curse of La Llorona from the start of the core story.  That issue begins when we are introduced to our main character Anna  Tate-Garcia, played by Linda Cardellini, who lives in the sun-soaked  metropolis of 1973 Los Angeles. While the movie tries its best to pepper  in accurate references and callbacks to this era of American history,  like an original episode of Scooby-Doo! Where Are You? and a  typical T.V. dinner, the actual house the majority of the hauntings take  place in does not match the time period in the slightest. Looking at it  from the street it seems all you need is a ‘For Sale’ sign sticking out  of the ground and it could easily be bought by the next silicon valley  executive that walks past.

Additionally, the key character trait that sets La Llorona apart from the other ghouls and specters in The Conjuring  universe is her unique connection to water. Without that she is unable  to complete her quests of stealing children away and drowning them in  nearby reservoirs. However, it seems that the L.A. in this universe  throws the relevance of climate data out a third story window. Over the  three whole days the film takes place, it rains enough to make  noticeable puddles and raise the water level of the nearest river. The  entire problem with this scenario is that when reviewing factual data  about the summer months of Southern California, this turn of events  would be highly improbable. According to the National Oceanic and  Atmospheric Administration, the city of Los Angeles receives at most one  rainy day per month in the summer, let alone an average total rainfall  of 0.095 inches between the months of May and August.

Though that may sound like a nitpick sort of observation, it can  easily be argued that there were more optimal times of the year to set  the film in. The rainy season in California usually occurs between early  winter and late spring, but it can be inferred that the time of year is  summer, seeing as the family’s pool is open. When the entire existence  of the main antagonist revolves around one necessary plot device that is  not native to the setting, it comes off as terrible cosmic coincidence  and The Curse of La Llorona is full of it.

Acting that could raise the dead

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For what La Llorona lacks in cohesive plot details, it quite  makes up for it with the performances of the majority of its cast, going  as far as the child actors who make the film special. At the helm we  have Linda Cardellini of Scooby-Doo and Gravity Falls fame,  who gives a subdued but caring performance as Anna. Patricia Velasquez  gives a tremendous performance as Patricicia Alvarez, the mother of two  of La Llorona’s latest victims. Her insane antics really keeps the  audience on their toes until the final act, and her turn of face in the  middle of the movie is piercing and quite well done.

The child actors in the film (Roman Christou as Chris and  Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen as Samantha) drive the movie forward with their  terrified countenances. Their reactions to the brutal supernatural  energy they come into contact with feels genuine. Marisol Ramirez as the  titular cursed spirit is the best performance in the entire film. Her  introduction in the first act is mesmerizing and the delivery of those  Spanish wails is terrifying to say the least. When La Llorona is  on-screen, she is the center of the audience’s attention and harbors  danger with her glowing gaze.

As for the Tate-Garcia’s savior, a curandero named Rafael Olvera, the former Breaking Bad star  Raymond Cruz gives a very dry performance. He lacks conviction in a  role that is truly titular to the conclusion of the film. He is stoic to  the point of annoyance and his addition at the beginning of the third  act does plenty for the story, but not enough for the overall quality of  film.

Design and directing that are as alive as ever

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There were multiple scenes throughout La Llorona that stoke  genuine fear with the way they are shot. Firstly, the almost  Victorian-style hospital that Patricia’s children stay in the night of  their death is haunting. The flickering lights, leaky water and grimy  mirrors add amazing atmosphere to the movie. As for that all-important  water, the reflective shots and angled framing used throughout are  creative. Of course, the entire film could not be so stylistically  impressive without the all-important bathroom sequence. The backdrop of  white tiles and eloquent curtains contrasts excellently with the dry,  blackened hands of the ghoulish antagonist.

As for the cursed specter’s design, the technical crew did a  wonderful job enhancing her entrances and overall presence on-screen.  Her motion envelops the camera and run as fluidly as her black tears  that will sting your soul as fiercely as her cries.

Image: IMDb

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