The Curse of La Llorona: a floorboard-creaking funfair horror

Review: This spook story is designed for full-house Friday night popcorn spillage

Film Title: The Curse of La Llorona

Director: Michael Chaves

Starring: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez

Genre: Horror

Running Time: 94 min

Fri, May 3, 2019, 05:00

   

Expect jump scares, not surprises. This efficient, routine haunting film introduces its titular wraith in a brief 17th-century prologue in which a wronged wife drowns her children to punish her errant husband. She regrets her actions immediately and thus continues to roam the earth seeking other children to take their place for centuries, or, more accurately, until the Scooby-Doo era.

Fast forward to 1973 and Scooby-Doo is on primetime. Linda Cardellini (who scored back-to-back box-office toppers when Avengers: Endgame dislodged The Curse of La Llorona from the top of the US chart) stars as social worker Anna Tate-Garcia, a widow mourning the death of her Latino police officer husband and struggling to juggle her work and motherhood.

After a truancy case involving Patricia Alvarez (Patricia Velásquez) goes horribly wrong, Anna unwittingly unleashes the mythological Mexican spook upon her own kids, Samantha (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) and Chris (Roman Christou). Not to worry: here come the priests, including “unorthodox” curandero Rafael (Breaking Bad’s Raymond Cruz) who comes to the family home with powders, magical goop and bone-dry humour.

The Curse of La Llorona trailer

The Weeping Woman is a rubbish, own-brand 90s J-horror monster. The sound design, however, is terrific

The latest export from the Conjuring universe initially hid its connections with James Wan’s carefully calibrated spook-house films. The presence of Annabelle’s Father Perez (Tony Amendola) and a brief shot of the dreaded doll confirms The Curse of La Llorona as a Conjurverse joint; first-time director Michael Chaves will, additionally, direct The Conjuring 3.

In terms of quality, La Llorona is a little worse than Annabelle and a little better than The Nun. The Weeping Woman is a rubbish, own-brand 90s J-horror monster. The sound design, however, is terrific. The film borrows – or rather shamelessly plunders – from The Exorcist, Poltergeist and, on at least one occasion, The Evil Dead. It’s familiar floorboard-creaking, dummy-punch funfair horror, designed for full-house, Friday night whooping and popcorn spillages.

The script by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis (their second film to hit Irish screens in as many months, following on from cystic fibrosis weepie Five Feet Apart) requires many dramatic pauses followed by an un-subtitled Spanish word, spoken ominously and with maximum hypercorrection. If that sounds too silly, this may not be the movie for you.