Directed by: Michael Chaves
Written by: Mikki Daughtry & Tobias Iaconis
Starring: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez, Marisol Ramirez
Oral tradition majorly contributes to stories being known widely in cultures. Some of these stories have messages that leave an impact on the audience and some of the scary ones intend to teach children obedience. The Curse of La Llorona mines from this folklore to tell the story of a spirit that has left a major impact on children for several decades now.
Child services caseworker Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini) learns that two kids have gone missing and upon investigating, she sees that the mother has locked up the children in a closet. After attempting to spring them free, the kids tell Anna that they must stay in the closet for their safety. The very next night after the children have been mysteriously murdered, Anna goes to the scene of the crime with her kids waiting in the car. Her son ventures out and witnesses a weeping woman, who then chases him and marks him thus having La Llorona come after him and his family.
The story of La Llorona has strong roots in the Latinx community and specifically Mexican culture. It’s the story of a woman who drowned her two children and her spirit roams the Earth looking for more children to be hers since she has last her own. “La Llorona” translates to “The Cryer” in English and the sound of sobbing indicates the spirit’s presence, according to the legend. This story had its use in making sure kids were obedient to their parents because, if not, then La Llorona would come and take them. A story that has the potential to be a horror classic and a monster that could be an icon in the American mainstream, but this film turns out to be an abomination to the legend from its casting to its very bland style of horror storytelling.
Let’s get down to why this film quickly becomes a trainwreck and it starts with the casting of Linda Cardellini as Anna Tate-Garcia. Anna does not represent a real person so when I watched the film I was not aware that she was meant to be a Latinx woman. I assumed that because Cardellini, a white woman, portrayed the character that Anna was white. She never spoke any Spanish or gave any indication that she had Latinx roots in any other way. I was not bothered by it because, while it would be a missed opportunity not to have a Latinx character haunted by the spirit, I thought it would be interesting for it to happen to a white family. Then after researching the film for the review, I learn the character’s full name and that she was a Latinx woman, after all, making everything about this film so much worse.
Usually, when white actors get cast in roles of minority characters, it comes down to them being the draw for the movie and partially why it even gets made. That comes to mind with Scarlett Johanssen and the film Rub and Tug. However, in this case, it doesn’t make sense in any way whatsoever. Listen, I like Linda Cardellini and I wish she would get more starring roles, but she’s not the draw for this movie. No one came to see this film because she landed the starring role beside her loved ones. What made this film money and brought people to the theater came from the popularity of La Llorona and The Conjuring brand attached to it. That means that they could cast anyone in this role and it would be fine, but instead of putting a Latinx actor in there they put in a white actor for no purpose whatsoever. It stands out as one of the most egregious casting decisions I have seen in 2019 and we have had a good amount of head-scratchers.
All of that nonsense happened outside of the actual film, I must admit, so let us explore how as a film and a narrative, it still lands as a dumpster fire. This might as well be called jumpscare, the movie because that’s all it has to offer and not in any type of entertaining way. Every single scare could be telegraphed from a mile away. The classic slow walking accompanied by the loud score, drop the score, and blast a loud jolt of noise accompanied by some scary visual. That’s all this film had to offer. It plays up all of the tropes of a possession movie without actually having a possession sequence and the inexplicable aspects of how much power this spirit seems to have. The solution of trying to get rid of the spirit turns out to be as contrived as all of the recent Conjuring films. Not a single scene in this film works on top of everything else that went wrong in pre-production.
Nothing warrants this film existing except for some easy money that the Conjuring franchise has gotten very efficient at producing. This film loosely connects to the rest of the universe, as it has the same priest that assisted the protagonists in Annabelle helping to save the day in this film. Besides that this film forms its own story with the Conjuring logo slapped on the poster to sell this movie to an audience that enjoyed the first ones, which are great in my opinion.
I may be coming down on this film harder than other basic horror films but this one obviously struck a nerve because it shows the worst in Hollywood. It shows the commoditization of historical stories and then just doing nothing special with it and then they cast a white actor for a Latinx role. I surely hope that another budding filmmaker has the ability to bring this spirit into the mass consciousness in the future because this legend has a rich history and has room for a tremendous story to be told and the horrors that this spirit has done to a whole generation of kids that have grown up to be adults. An absolute shame that this may how some first see La Llorona, as nothing but a cheap throwaway horror character, no different than that one ghost in your attic.