06-21-2020, 03:16 PM
Linda Cardellini, Patricia Velasquez, Raymond Cruz, Sean Patrick Thomas
1 hours 33 minutes
It’s said that back in the 17th century Mexico, La Llorona, a.k.a. the Weeping Woman, drowned her two kids in a fit of jealous rage when she caught her husband in the arms of another woman. Her spirit was cursed because of that and was destined to walk the earth, stalking children and killing them. The film is not set in the 17th century however but in 1973 Los Angeles. Why 1973, you may ask -- well, that’s to tie it to (rather clumsily) the Conjuring universe.
Social worker Anna Garcia (Linda Cardellini), who works in the child support department, is assigned to investigate the house of a woman know to be abusive towards her kids. She learns that Patricia Alvarez (Patricia Velásquez) has been forcing her two young sons to live in a closet. Furious, Anna gets the mother arrested and sends the kids into an orphanage. Patricia tries to argue that all she wants is to keep her children safe but no one listens to her. The boys get drowned later that night and a distraught Patricia, who knows that the spirit of La Llorona is behind the killings, invokes the spirit and beseeches it to kill Anna’s children Samantha (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) and Chris (Roman Christou). How, with the help of a shaman (Raymond Cruz), the family is able to defeat the spirit forms the crux of the film.
Debutant director Michael Chaves seems to be a big fan of the Conjuring franchise as he has faithfully copied the template of Conjuring films. But that’s where the similarities end. Because while the films directed by James Wan are genuinely scary, this one is not. Also, in the Conjuring films, we get to invest emotionally in the characters and hence are affected by what’s happening to them on screen. Here, nothing of that sort happens and that kind of weakens the impact.
Director Chaves used all sorts of horror tropes, from doors making awful noises, creaking steps, leaking taps, banging windows, and glass breaking et all are utilised relentlessly to drive the point home. Then, jump cuts, the staple of horror film directors, are used like every five minutes and this excessive usage dilutes their essence. The film uses a plot device straight out of the Poltergeist (1982), what with children being sucked into a portal. Not that the film totally screws up when it comes to creating horror. For instance, watching a pair of ghostly hands appearing out of nowhere to shampoo the daughter and later trying to drown her does give you the creeps but such moments are few and far between. The problem, in essence, of this horror film, is that it doesn’t scare much. La Llorona is built up as an immortal force of nature but doesn’t actually do anything to us. She doesn’t even harm the children, failing to do so despite repeated attempts.
The film is also let down by lack of a coherent screenplay. How come a social worker is so rich she has a pool the size of a small lake? The shaman conveniently knows of a cure and even has the necessary equipment to carry it out. And he also thinks nothing of using the family as bait to force the spirit out. Really? Wasn’t his primary goal was to keep them out of harm’s way? The film contains some cheesy dialogue as well, most of them falling in the lap of Raymond Cruz, who plays the shaman.
Linda Cardellini has given a believable performance as a distraught mother who is willing to do anything, even fighting an evil spirit in order to save her children. The child actors have also done a fine enough job. The rest of the cast appear one-dimensional and don’t contribute much to the film.
All said and done, this rather absurd and unintentionally comic horror film is strictly for those fans who don’t want to miss anything remotely connected the Conjuring universe...