Director: Michael Chaves
Cast: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velasquez, Marisol Ramirez, Sean Patrick Thomas, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Roman Christou
Runtime: 1 hr 33 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Horror)
Released By: Warner Bros
Opening Day: 18 April 2019
Synopsis: La Llorona. The Weeping Woman. A horrifying apparition, caught between Heaven and Hell, trapped in a terrible fate sealed by her own hand. The mere mention of her name has struck terror around the world for generations. In life, she drowned her children in a jealous rage, throwing herself in the churning river after them as she wept in pain. Now her tears are eternal. They are lethal, and those who hear her death call in the night are doomed. La Llorona creeps in the shadows and preys on the children, desperate to replace her own. As the centuries have passed, her desire has grown more voracious…and her methods more terrifying. In 1970s Los Angeles, La Llorona is stalking the night—and the children. Ignoring the eerie warning of a troubled mother suspected of child endangerment, a social worker and her own small kids are soon drawn into a frightening supernatural realm. Their only hope to survive La Llorona’s deadly wrath may be a disillusioned priest and the mysticism he practices to keep evil at bay, on the fringes where fear and faith collide. Beware of her chilling wail…she will stop at nothing to lure you into the gloom. Because there is no peace for her anguish. There is no mercy for her soul. And there is no escape from the curse of La Llorona.
The filmmakers of this movie want you to know that it is part of The Conjuring Universe.
And why shouldn’t they? The American horror film franchise dramatising the real life cases of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren has proven to be a success. Be it The Conjuring series, the Annabelle series or The Nun series, the decent box office figures have proven that it is a sound business decision to make this movie directed by Michael Chaves part of the fictionalised universe.
Set in 1970s Los Angeles, the story follows a widow as she tries all ways and means to save her children from a ghost who is trying to steal them away. This ghost is the scary La Llorona, the spirit of a woman who drowned her children out of hatred for her cheating husband and now cries while looking for them in the river. As expected, she doesn’t bring joy to the people who see or hear her, and she is on the prowl for unknowing kids who can take her deceased children’s place.
One must admit that there is nothing much else you can do with a commercial horror flick like this. That said, it all depends on the folklore that drives the story. With origins in Mexico, La Llorona’s tale is a spine chilling yet tragic one, and that works in parallel for the protagonist played by Linda Cardellini (Green Book), a loving but busy woman who may need to spend more quality time with her kids. As a result, the 93 minute movie manages to keep your interest going but deep down inside, you also know the predictable plot won’t offer anything new.
The actors do what they can with their roles. Cardellini does a decent job playing the mother who will go all out to protect her kids, Jaynee Lynne Kinchen and Roman Christou are the young children who are embroiled in this supernatural mess, while Patricia Velásquez takes on the supporting role of a woman who falls victim to the vengeful ghost.
Elsewhere, Raymond Cruz plays a poltergeist who uses unorthodox methods to keep spirits out, and Tony Amendola reprises his role from Annabelle as Father Perez. Yup, the cursed doll makes an appearance as well, making sure that viewers are aware that this movie is connected to The Conjuring Universe.
There are some gripping moments during the movie (during the preview that this writer attended, there were members of the audience shrieking in exasperation during certain scenes), and they are well executed. The makeup and special effects are respectable, and the NC 16 (Horror) rating is a sign that there are some frightening moments unsuitable for the young. There are also some scenes featuring spell casting with candles, eggs and beans which are interesting to watch.
This is a serviceable piece of work, and if the movie studio behind The Conjuring Universe ever decides to create a theme park attraction based on the series, you can be sure La Llorona will be a key figure that will lunge towards unsuspecting visitors with her shrill screams.
(The Conjuring Universe warmly welcomes La Llorona to the lucrative world of horror movies)
Review by John Li