For my reviews of the other entries in the Conjuring Universe, click the following links:
- THE CONJURING (2013)
- ANNABELLE (2014)
- THE CONJURING 2 (2016)
- ANNABELLE: CREATION (2017)
- THE NUN (2018)
- ANNABELLE COMES HOME (2019) – TBA
- THE CONJURING 3 (2020) – TBA
Anyone else think that adding this to the Conjuring universe is a ham-fisted way of getting asses in seats? I’m pretty sure when the first trailer dropped, it was just another horror movie. But, my guess is that it received a poor reception online, so the creators wanted to save face and say that it’s part of the Conjuring universe. I mean, James Wan is one of the producers, so why the hell not? And don’t tell me that it should have been obvious because Wan has had a pretty diverse career. He’s directed a couple of Fast and Furious movies, as well as AQUAMAN, both of which aren’t part of the Conjuring universe. So cram it.
The story looks like it’s about a detective who arrested a troubled Hispanic mother who talks about a ghost woman. The detective goes home to her family and is haunted by the same ghost who wants her children.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Linda Cardellini (GREEN BOOK , FOUNDER , AVENGERS: ULTRON , SCOOBY-DOO  and MONSTERS UNLEASHED , and LEGALLY BLONDE ), Marisol Ramirez (stuff I’ve either not seen or heard of), Tony Amendola (THE MEDDLER ), Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen (SELF/LESS ), and Madeleine McGraw (ANT-MAN/WASP , CARS 3 , and the upcoming TOY STORY 4 ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Michael Chaves, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. Co-writing the screenplay, we have Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, both known for FIVE FEET APART (2019). One of the producers is James Wan, known for LIGHTS OUT (2016). Composing the score is Joseph Bishara, known for PRODIGY (2019), INSIDIOUS 4 (2018), and OTHER/DOOR (2016). The cinematographer is Michael Burgess, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. Finally, the editor is Peter Gvozdas, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, and the upcoming BRIGHTBURN (2019).
Overall… mmph, I have no idea. While I didn’t like ANNABELLE or NUN, I can’t say where this is going to fall. I feel like this is going to be a whole lot of “why didn’t she just take the kids here?” type of cliché shit. I sure hope it’s better than I imagine, but early ratings aren’t giving me much hope. Ugh… enough with the spin-offs. Just give me a proper Conjuring film. Sheesh.
This is my honest opinion of: THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA
Set in 1973. Anna (Linda Cardellini) is a widow and single mother of her son Chris (Roman Christou) and daughter Sam (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen). She lives as a social worker and one of her longer-running cases, involving a mother named Patricia (Patricia Velasquez) and her two sons. It turns out that there’s been some freaky stuff happening and she had her sons locked in a closet for unknown reasons. But when the kids are taken to a shelter, it seems that not everything was clear Anna as the family was haunted by a ghostly woman named La Llorona (Marisol Ramirez), who was after the children, and kills them. However, La Llorona isn’t far away as she now targets Anna’s children.
Damn it, I was right. A whole lot of jump scares and little more than a standard haunted house movie. Well, let’s get this out of the way, where do I rank this in terms of the Conjuring universe films? Honestly, it might be the most bland and forgettable of the franchise, so maybe better than NUN, but worse than CREATION. Much worse.
Okay, let’s start with some positives. Similar to NUN, one of the saving graces was the acting, though I think Cardellini pulls off a better performance than the actors of the previous flick. Her freaked-out looks, mixed with her desperation to protect her children from La Llorona, I feel like Anna leaves more of an impact as a protagonist simply for Cardellini’s intensity. Whether or not that’ll stand the test of time is still in question, but as a one-off, she’s the best actor in the movie.
There are also some neat effects. Give the bad installments some credit, they have their moments of good effects. There’s a bit where Sam opens her clear umbrella, and through it, she sees Llorona, but not when she closes it. But then later on in the scene, Sam will open the umbrella and see nothing, but as soon as she closes it, Llorona appears. The way this scene is staged is actually pretty fun and even impressive. I also enjoy the bits where you see Llorona in the shadows of the background just looking menacing. She doesn’t attack, or anything, but that her appearance is subtle is a really nice touch. One of my favorite aspects of Llorona is how she blends into natural shadows and completely disappears and reappearing elsewhere. That trailer scene is a perfect example and she does that at least one more time in the movie.
However, my compliments end there, and it’s obvious what the problems are because they’re the same problems with most bad horror movies. It’s a jamboree of tropes. Jump scares, fake-outs followed by cheap jump scares, and more than a few moments don’t make sense.
Let’s start with the titular monster, La Llorona. Basic stuff first, she wears a gown and a matching headpiece. Kinda sounds like Valak from NUN. Just replace the robe of a nun and replace it with a wedding gown and you’re all set. There’s very little in terms of her appearance that’s different from Valak as a whole. She screams a lot at her victims and has yellow eyes. So… so innovative… note my sarcasm.
Let’s dive a little deeper. First off, I don’t think I like that she was given a human backstory. I know that the actual legend centers around a real woman, but the the key word in this sentence is “legend.” This is ultimately a folklore, and for all intents and purposes, not based on reality. Not saying there aren’t deeply disturbed and sadistic mothers out there who have killed their children, but I feel like that really humanizes the monster and should have kept this ambiguous. By opening with her being a real person, it’s saps the mystery and “monstrous-ness” of it all. The only way this could work is if La Llorona was an actual character with a personality of sorts. We know that her shtick is looking for kids and to kill them. So what takes her so long to try and kill either Chris or Sam? She literally has them in her hands, but just stops short. What’s the point of marking them? Why does she go after Anna? Is it because Anna represents the younger woman that Llorona’s husband left her for? If so, same question, what takes her so long to kill them? The length of time it takes Llorona to kill her targets is nothing more than dramatic effect, rather than practicality.
Even if you wanted to tell me that ghosts have to do “rituals” or some shit, then explain the rituals. I would have it that Llorona killed the other woman because not only does the husband fall in love with her instead, but maybe so do the kids. The father attempts to take the children away, who also want to leave her, but she kills them before they can go, instead of some half-assed “they were the most important things to the man, so she killed them to hurt him.” The “ritual” would be that she kills the mothers first to make it harder for the children to be protected, and therefore, more vulnerable. Hell, that would have been downright different for these movies. Also, what about her weaknesses, or ways of defending against her? Movies like this are all about putting up crosses, sprinkling holy water, and shit like that to better combat the evil force. The movie establishes that a cross made from the trees that were around when Llorona killed her kids is a viable weapon against her. I feel like that should have been weapon number one that Rafael (Raymond Cruz) used against her. Apparently, he carries around something that can turn a pool into holy water, so why not get a few water guns and arm everyone like that?
Speaking of weaknesses, how about those seeds from those trees that the super special cross was made from? Apparently, those seeds are a full-proof shield to keep Llorona at bay. Okay, fair enough, but then she opens other doors in the house and doesn’t go through them for some reason. So… what, does that mean as long as a line of those seeds is there that she can’t enter the entire house? If so, why did that line need to be at the door frame? Could Rafael have put that line anywhere in the house and get the same effect? Nothing is really explained about this.
Now let’s talk about… you know, THE REST of the movie. Yeah, keep in mind that I was just talking about Llorona herself.
Another huge problem I had was with the kids. Sadly, the kids aren’t very good actors, but I have a hard time blaming them, as I believe it’s all a directorial issue. You see bouts of these kids being scared, confused, and all around grieving over the loss of their father, but what makes this so hard to watch is every incident after their respective encounters with Llorona. They just lie and say stupid things, like, “I fell down,” or something equally dumb. I mean, okay, in worse movies, you would have kids trying to convince their parents of ghosts, but of course won’t be believed. But the issue with this is that the kids are most likely the main characters and have to solve the problem themselves. This is about the mother. Sure, Anna may not believe a ghost woman did this, but open to certain possibilities, given the circumstances, would be beneficial to character development. Also, I would imagine these kids would be a lot more traumatized after experiencing the shit they went through. No wide eyes, hugging their knees, and shaking in a dark corner? How do you explain that? They just shrug it off like it’s a normal Wednesday.
Finally, that climax was… not well put together. Okay, so dumb shit leading them to the attic, it gets pretty over the top, even silly, and confusing. So the kids are trying to escape Llorona and what happens? “Jingle Bells” starts playing from a music box, or whatever the hell it was, and even a squeak toy falls, making a squeaking sound. This climax lost me enough, but when the necklace came into play, I was more than confused. Llorona looks at the thing and… reverts back to her mortal state? Why? What significance did that necklace have? A whole lot of good it ended up doing, whatever was supposed to happen, as she goes back to her freaky self when she sees herself in a mirror. Seriously, that moment could have been written out entirely and the climax would have been… at least marginally smoothed out as she dies in a pretty conventional way: stabbed with the tree-cross thing.
Overall, this movie sucked, and now that I think about it, I’m wondering if it’s actually just as bad as THE NUN. I mean, Cardellini is a much better lead, and I suppose more than a few effects did their job in keeping me engaged, but this movie has just about as many problems with dumb shit just happening. It’s like these movies are being slapped together with no real thought being put into them. I think it certainly had potential, but it’s writing and directing ruins everything at nearly every turn. As a recommendation, I say this is a hard pass. It so loosely ties together with the rest of the Conjuring universe and is such a bland, run of the mill bad horror movie that I’m sure it’s best just to wait for CONJURING 3. Bleh, not good.
My honest rating for THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA: a weak 3/5
This week’s reviews:
Next week’s reviews:
- AVENGERS: ENDGAME