Frances Winston reviews this horror film based on Mexican folklore – La Llorona
Directed by: Michael Chaves – Starring: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez
It is unlikely that real life paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, ever envisaged that their work would spawn a vast big-screen franchise, but this offering is the sixth film released under the umbrella of the Conjuring Universe!
This offering is loosely connected to Annabelle, with Tony Amendola reprising his role as Fr. Perez from that film. I say loosely connected, as that is pretty much the only link. So if you are expecting more scares from the vaults of Ed and Lorraine’s museum of the macabre, you may be disappointed!
This is based on actual Mexican folklore about La Llorona, who is reputed to be the ghost of a woman who murdered her children. In this interpretation of her tale, she wanders the earth looking for kids to replace hers, and this is how social worker Anna (Carellini) encounters her in 1973 Los Angeles. She finds herself and her children targeted by the malevolent demon, and is forced to call in a former priest called Rafael (Cruz) to help her banish the spirit before her family meet their deaths.
The idea of children in danger is a tried and tested one in horror films, as is the exorcism/banishment of a demon. If it’s not broken, why fix it, and this very much sticks to that ideal. There is a decent build before Raphael enters the picture, and then it goes full octane demon-hunter, as all manner of rituals and relics are used to prevent the evil spirit from getting her way.
There is nothing new here in terms of concept or ideas. The story itself doesn’t have much substance, and there are numerous things that will drive you crazy if you try to analyse them too much. But that doesn’t matter, because this is just here to deliver scares, and overall it succeeds.
It benefits from using old-skool style jump scares, rather than tons of special effects, and really will have you leaping out of your seat at points. Although you can see many of these moments coming, they are beautifully handled in many scenes. Shot in a very bleak dark style, you could almost believe that this actually was made in the 70s at times.
As is usually the case with movies like this, the script is cheesier than a cheese toasty, and the performances are hit and miss. There are times where you can almost see the actors waiting for the bang in order to react to it. Also the writers seem to have been unable to figure out if Cruz’s ‘exorcist’ style character was comedic or stoic, and as a result he is somewhat of a mish-mash. But again, this isn’t the point of this movie. They just want to send a shiver down your spine.
This isn’t great, but it isn’t dreadful. It is entertaining enough if you fancy some creeps and chills, and will give you the odd nervous giggle in some sections. It is somewhat tenuously shoe-horned into The Conjuring universe, and is probably best watched as a standalone offering. But if you want an alternative to the shiny happy Summer movies currently on offer, then this is the movie for you.
In Cinemas Now!