SXSW 2019 Review: “The Curse of La Llorona” World Premieres at SXSW and in Theaters Now

By Liz Lopez

Rating: B-/C+

The horror film “The Curse of La Llorona” premiered at SXSW on Friday, March 15th and many in the audience seemed unnerved. As for me, not so much. I have heard (and read) about the familiar legend, La Llorona, in Latin American (Mexico and South America) folklore, over the past few decades, but it was not something mentioned often by my maternal grandmother or mama. I understand there are different versions of the story, so it is hard for me to make a specific statement that this film is actually true to the legend and history. There is a great entry online about this legend in the Texas State Historical Association that explains more about La Llorona (a.k.a. the Weeping Woman). This film produced by James Wan (“The Conjuring”) and written by screenwriters Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis (“Five Feet Apart) seems to have taken bits and pieces of the stories told over the decades to create “The Curse of La Llorona” for a new audience who is unfamiliar with her. Unfortunately, I do not believe they developed the story enough to explain the characters a bit more, especially those who are not familiar with the culture and ritual belief healing practices (not only used in the Latino communities).

The curandero/former priest, Rafael Olvera (Raymond Cruz) is a prominent character and as it is written, many in the audience may not have grasped his use of potions or methods to help combat the spirit (played by Marisol Ramirez) in a ghostly white dress, who is trying to kill the children. He is not a magician and the action he takes should not be interpreted as “magic” by any means by critics or audience members alike. Cruz (“Collateral Damage,” “Training Day”) gives a great performance and works well with the material provided.

It is unfortunate that the filmmakers, including first-time feature director Michael Chaves, just followed suit from other films that have no creativity when they only use squeaky doors and creaky floorboards to get a reaction from the audience. The one scene that absolutely works for me is when a young child, Samantha (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen), daughter to Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini, “Freaks and Geeks,” “Green Book”) is in the bathtub, waiting for mama to come help her wash her hair. I jumped! It was also an eerie feeling early in the film when Anna’s other child, Chris (Roman Christou) sees La Llorona for the first time (and withholds the information from his mama), then runs toward the family car!

Set in Los Angeles 1973, Anna (Cardellini, whose great performance elevates the script) is a social worker that is working the case of a mother she has worked with before, Patricia Alvarez (Patricia Velásquez, “Hawaii Five-0” TV series) and her two sons. Things go wrong for the boys after a decision is made to send them to foster care as Anna sorts out the details. La Llorona is behind this situation and the grieving Patricia calls for the ghost to curse Anna. At one point, Anna consults with the local priest, Father Perez (Tony Amendola, “Annabelle”) and subsequently, Rafael, the curandero.

“The Curse of La Llorona” begins in theaters on Thursday, April 18, 2019 and nationwide, April 19th. The film is rated R and is an hour and 33 minutes in duration. 

Source: Warner Bros Pictures

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