Cursed Storytelling: Our Review of ‘The Curse of La Llorona’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - April 19, 2019
Cursed Storytelling: Our Review of ‘The Curse of La Llorona’

Despite being a big fan of the horror genre, for whatever reason I’ve yet to see a single film based in The Conjuring universe. Director Michael Chaves’ The Curse of La Llorona does not make me want to jump in.

Horror is similar to comedy because fear is similar to laughter: both are primal instincts. For me, the two genres share something of a get-out-of-jail-free card in that I can overlook a number of shortcomings as long as the comedy makes me laugh, or the horror film scares me. Outside of jump scares (which, let’s be honest, are more startling than actually scary), this film has little in the way of anything truly horrific.

I will be the first to admit that crafting an effective jump scare is an art and a discipline unto itself, and when used correctly (and more importantly, sparingly) they can be very striking. But when overused they quickly become cheap and lazy. For a horror director, if the jump scare is the only tool in your kit, you have no business making a horror movie. Thus, my biggest issue with the movie: it startled me a lot, but at no point did I feel actual fear. I will sleep just fine tonight.

Linda Cardellini is a tremendous actress, and to her credit, she’s giving everything she’s got in this film. She turns in what is probably the best possible performance given what she had to work with. Raymond Cruz (who was fabulous as Tuco on Breaking Bad) is sleepwalking his way through this movie. I can’t blame him. His character has by far the film’s worst dialogue, as well as most of its comedy, none of which landed for me. Patricia Velasquez has very little screen time, but is impressive as hell in the moments she’s given.

The first two thirds of the movie, while not great, are relatively palatable. There are a few interesting moments and some curious world-building. The third act however, completely falls apart. It becomes ridiculously repetitive, with the same “scares” being played out over and over.

The rules of this world are never really established, yet somehow the movie still manages to feel like it’s breaking those rules, along with a number of pretty extreme leaps in logic. Further, there’s a sequence towards the end composed of quick shots that bafflingly fade out rather than cutting, which admittedly sounds like a nitpick, but it looked so strange and completely out of place with the rest of the movie. I have no idea what the director was going for.

Having written all of that, I can say that on a technical level, the movie is quite solid. The cinematography is stunning, and there is some very effective camera work. The sound design (which is of utmost importance in a horror film) is also spot on. Unfortunately, this simply does not save the film from bad writing and spotty storytelling.

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