SXSW Film Review: The Curse of La Llorona

An overdose of jump scares in this latest Conjuring spin-off

Is there any genre that pushes producers over directors more than horror? For a while we had Eli Roth attached to singular projects, but now his name has been tarnished from a decade of producing mediocre genre movies and not making enough good movies himself to counter this. Now the big name is James Wan.

He’s the man who kick-started a long line of successful franchises: Saw, Insidious, and the colossally messy Conjuring universe. That franchise, whose films used to be either about or adjacent to Warren cases, has turned to folklore with The Curse of La Llorona. A ghost from Latin America, La Llorona (Marisol Ramirez) haunts families, searching for children to replace the ones she drowned out of spite for her cheating husband. In Michael Chaves’ film, the ghost weeps black tears in a white weddinglike gown, marking her victims by grasping their wrists and burning her fingertips into their flesh, and her latest intended prey are the children of a CPS officer (Linda Cardellini) in 1970s L.A.

There are pieces in the film that feel interesting, but as a whole it’s clear that Chaves was a hired hand to make a Wan-like movie. From Wan’s signature tracking shots down to the ghost’s design itself (La Llorona gives off intense Bride in Black vibes), there is nothing original in this movie that has been curiously plopped into The Conjuring franchise. Just because you have all the pieces, doesn’t mean the jigsaw puzzle is going to feel like the master’s creation.

That’s all The Curse of La Llorona is: a cheap attempt to recreate the spark that has made The Conjuring franchise so lucrative. It’s pathetic, and both horror fans and the Latinx community deserve more respect than this lazy attempt at a cash grab. A decent performance from Cardellini doesn’t save a film saturated with predictable jump scares and weak mythos building.

The Curse of La Llorona

Headliners, World Premiere

Friday, March 15, 9:30pm, Paramount

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SXSW 2019, SXSW Film 2019, The Curse of La Llorona, Michael Chaves, Linda Cardellini, James Wan

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