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The Curse of La Llorona (2019)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/6/2019
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/5/2019
Despite some awfully odd things occurring in race relations these days, there is a refreshing air of diversity and inclusivity happening in many pockets of the world, most noticeably in entertainment. One of the first parts of show business to embrace this kind of thinking was horror movies. While some localization and “white-washing” were undeniably involved, Hollywood became enamored with scary movies from Asia in the early part of this century. We’ve also seen foreign directors like Alexandra Aja and Guillermo del Toro find success with major American projects. Now, it appears that the film industry is turning their eye south of the border with The Curse of La Llorona. Will this Mexican ghoul be made to feel welcome?
The Curse of La Llorona opens in Mexico in the year 1673. Here, we see a seemingly happy woman who suddenly attacks her two sons, forcing them into a river. The story then jumps ahead 300 years to Los Angeles. Anna (Linda Cardellini) is a single-mom who is working to raise her kids, Chris (Roman Christou) and Samantha (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen). In her job as a social worker, she is sent to check on Patricia (Patricia Velasquez), and finds that the woman is acting strangely and that she’s locked her sons in a closet. The boys is taken to a safe place and Patricia is taken into custody. When tragedy befalls the family, Chris sees a spectral presence (Marisol Ramirez). At first, Anna doesn’t know what to believe, but after witnessing some spooky things herself, she consults with Father Perez (Tony Amendola), who explains that Anna is dealing with La Llorona, a spirit who haunts the Earth seeking children to replace those which she killed. Father Perez sends Anna to Rafael Olvera (Raymond Cruz), a spiritual healer, for help. But, can he stop a determined ghost?
In my review for Crazy Rich Asians, I wrote about how on the surface it was great that we had gotten a lavish, big-budget film featuring an all-Asian cast, but that when one dug beneath the surface, it became apparent that this cast had been given an incredibly mundane story. The Curse of La Llorona casts a similar shadow. At first glance, it seems great that the makers of the Insidious and The Conjuring franchises have turned their attention to this legend from the Hispanic community. We get a predominantly Latin cast and the movie doesn’t shy away from having characters speak Spanish and uses Latin expressions.
However, the movie falls far short of being a milestone due to its uninspired script from Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis. Instead of The Curse of La Llorona being something new and groundbreaking, it’s a very pedestrian ghost story. Director Michael Chaves makes his feature-film debut here and he seems determined to hit ever possible horror movie cliché. But, everything misses the mark, as the movie is certainly never scary and doesn’t even manage to be creepy. We get some jump scares and some attacks from La Llorona, but it’s all incredibly dull. The movie receives no help from the fact that the look La Llorona herself is so uninspired. I suppose that the legends call for a spectral figure in a white dress, but for modern audiences, that simply doesn’t cut it.
And, does it work that the main character is a white lady? From a narrative viewpoint, it makes sense that Anna would be someone who hasn’t head of La Llorona and would have to learn about her along with the audience. But, the movie could have worked equally well, if not better, if Anna had been Latina and would have been scared of La Llorona from the outset. And, whey couldn’t the story have been set in Mexico?
For decades, horror films have been cyphers for political and socials ideas, and many of the films coming from Blumhouse continue this trend. The Curse of La Llorona could have easily been a new entry into the realm of scary movies that embrace other cultures, but it doesn’t seem concerned with making a statement. Instead, we get a hackneyed ghost story which offers very little in thrills or intriguing characters. If you want to see a La Llorona which is actually scary, do a search for footage from Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights.
The Curse of La Llorona only takes place in 1973 to solidify its place in the “Conjureverse” courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth works well and the image is rarely soft. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a powerful track, delivering strong surround and subwoofer effects during the scare sequences. The stereo effects highlight sounds coming from off-screen, which helps to enhance the scenes where La Llorona is stalking the family.
The Curse of La Llorona Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. “The Myth of La Llorona” (2 minutes) has the cast discussing their own real-life exposure to the folktale and some variations of it. “Behind the Curse” (10 minutes) has the actors and creative team talking about the story behind the film and the film’s production. We get a nice amount of on-set footage here. We get a look at the work which went into the design of La Llorona in “The Making of a Movie Monster” (6 minutes). The Disc contains six DELETED SCENES which run about 11 minutes. All of these are simply longer versions of scenes from the finished film, save for a very brief coda, which would have actually worked had they left it in. The final extra is an 18-minute reel which compares storyboards to scenes from the movie.
Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long