There is no valid reason whatsoever as to why The Curse of La Llorona is part of The Conjuring Universe. Aside from a brief appearance from one supporting character from Annabelle, whose presence here is as redundant as the highly forgettable film he was a part of, the film features a separate, self-contained story that’s got nothing to do with the earlier entries of the famous horror franchise. It was conceived as a standalone horror film in the beginning, and it should have remained as such.
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Based on the Mexican folklore of La Llorona, The Curse of La Llorona (also known as The Curse of the Weeping Woman) is set in 1970s Los Angeles and follows a social worker whose investigation into the case of a former client, a troubled mother suspected of child endangerment, triggers a chain of events which bring havoc into her own household. After she finds her kids being haunted by a malevolent spirit, she enlists the help of a disillusioned priest to save her family from the powerful evil.
Directed by Michael Chaves in what’s his directorial debut, the rookie filmmaker makes his first mistake in the opening prologue only by failing to properly illustrate the lore origins, which could have generated additional interest in the story. The rest of the plot follows the established tropes of the genre, employing run of the mill scares, and is often more concerned with planning the next fright instead of developing the characters. A widowed mother with two children isn’t enough to earn our emotional investment.
There are a couple good jump scares in here but by showing the antagonist’s disfigured visage a tad too many times, the effectiveness gets somewhat diluted as the plot progresses. The script in itself is a mess, filled with awful dialogues, bland characters & dumb decision-making that pulls the viewers out of the story. The character of Father Perez exists here only to let us know that the events of this movie are taking place in the same universe as that of the Warrens. And the entire third act is a letdown that not only underwhelms but also derails the few good bits about the film.
The cast is led by Linda Cardellini who plays a caseworker whose children become the latest target of La Llorona. But the writers don’t have enough material for to her to base her performance upon, thus resulting in a rather undercooked rendition from the actress. Raymond Cruz (Tuco Salamanca from Breaking Bad) also receives top billing here, playing the role of a shaman. And though he provides little comic relief on occasions, his performance isn’t anything special either. Children are rarely compelling in horror films and it’s no exception this time.
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On an overall scale, The Curse of La Llorona is another disposable entry in the world of supernatural horror that no doubt would have gone under the radar if it wasn’t marketed as part of The Conjuring Universe. However, the film neither contains the required elements to earn its place in the franchise nor it does enough to live up to its standalone roots. Being based on famous folklore, the premise had potential but the writers fail to create a gripping plot around it. The execution from the first-time director is also by the books, thus resulting in a final product that’s predictable, forgettable & mediocre. In a word, underwhelming.