By John Hanlon
The story of La Llorona — which means the Weeping Woman — is a simple but effective Mexican folk tale. There are multiple versions of this story but in one of the best-known ones, a mother becomes so desolate and psychotic after discovering her husband’s infidelity that she drowns her own children. She knows that such a despicable act will destroy her unfaithful husband. However, when she realizes what she’s done, she kills herself.
Her spirit lives on though and she continues her search for other children to find, hoping to sacrifice them.
The new film The Curse of La Llorona begins by retelling the Weeping Woman's fateful tale. In Mexico in 1673, the vengeful act occurs. The feature then cuts to Los Angeles in 1973, where it introduces Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini). A mother of two small children, Anna’s work as a social worker oftentimes brings her to the homes of troubled families.
At one home, Anna finds two children locked in a closet by their mother. Their mother notes that La Llorano has returned. That hateful spirit soon haunts the Tate-Garcia family, especially Anna's two young children.
The script by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Taconis relies heavily on the children here, as La Llorano’s focus is on the two youngsters. Fortunately, the actors in those roles deliver strong performances. Roman Christou and Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen respectively portray Chris and Samantha, Anna’s two children.
When Chris first sees La Llorano (crying near a murder scene), Christou ably captures the terror of a young boy witnessing something truly terrifying. Throughout the entire film, the scenes of terror continually rely on Christou and Kinchen and both actors do terrific work here, even when the film relies on jump scares to keep the audience on edge.
The feature does rely on a number of jump scares (with La Llorona popping up to scare the audience) but there are also great examples of genuine terror here as well. When director Michael Chaves slows down the pace a little, he commendably builds up the tension. From a bath tub sequence that relies on a slow build to a simple shot of La Llorano looking blankly and quietly at Anna, there are moments here that hint at the true fear that comes from this tale.
Some of the chase sequences though can be a little too chaotic for their own good. The director clearly shows his talent in the smaller scenes of terror but some of the faster scenes focus too much on shaky camerawork to truly work.
Despite some loose threads in the plot (that seemingly go nowhere), The Curse of La Llorona delivers its share of scares while delivering great performances from some of the younger actors. Horror fans will be pleased that this new tale, which takes place in The Conjuring universe, keeps the tension rising.