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“La Llorona” explores the Mexican legend of the Weeping Woman, but it’s far from one of the more inspired entries in the Conjuring universe.

The Curse of La Llorona requires you to look at the movie on two different levels: 1) as a horror film in its own right, and 2) as an extension of the extended  Conjuring Universe. Unfortunately though, the film struggles on both levels.

La Llorona is an urban legend from Mexico about a “weeping woman.” This is not exclusive to Mexican lore. Many cultures have similar stories,  and it has been a trope going back as far as Greek mythology with the story of Lamia, whose children with Zeus are murdered by Hera. Lamia then goes on to steal other women’s children.

THE PLOT

In The Curse of La Llorona, the movie opens in 1673 Mexico with a family playing in an open field. This soon transitions to one scenes of the mother drowning her children. We learn later that her husband was unfaithful and in an act of revenge, she drowned his children. Her grief leads her to steal children from others in to replace her own.

The movie then jumps ahead to 1973 where we meet Anna (Linda Cardellini), an overworked social worker who is also a recently widowed mom of two, Chris (Roman Christou) and Samantha (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen). Anna is called out to investigate Patricia (Patricia Velasquez), a mother whose children have been truant. Finding the boys locked up in a closet, they are removed from the home and placed in an orphanage.

Patricia claims to be protecting them, and then the boys disappear that night only to be found drowned in a nearby river. Anna is called out in the middle of the night and has to bring  Chris and Samantha with her. Patricia blames Anna and says it was done by La Llorona. Chris has an experience with La Llorona at the scene and she follows them home.

THE ANALYSIS

Looking at The Curse of La Llorona strictly as a horror movie leaves the viewer looking for anything original. The entire movie is pretty much made up of scenes any horror fan is well-familiar with, having seen them often and, for the most part, done better in other movies. The movie relies completely on jump scares, without any of the tension and atmosphere that have made The Conjuring movies stand out.

Most of the performances are decent. Raymond Cruz (CSI Miami) plays Rafeal Olvera, a former priest who uses a combination of the occult and religion to help Anna and her family. Cruz’s performance is a little bizarre. He provides most of the levity, both intentionally and unintentionally.

As a part of the overall Conjuring Universe, this barely registers. There is a small throw away scene featuring Tony Amendola as Father Perez, reprising his character from Annabelle. He generically references an experience with a doll, but the part could have been played by anyone, and the movie would have ended up not having anything to do with The Conjuring universe at all.

I did read that there was a scene deleted where an artifact from La Llorona was going to be given to the Warrens for safe-keeping, but since it’s not in the movie, it’s hard to include it as a reason to keep this in-universe.

THE BOTTOM LINE

If the movie is some brilliant set up to the next movie in the franchise, Annabelle Comes Home, I may eat a little crow on this, but as a film in its own right, this feels about as connected to the previous stories as Troll 2 is to Troll. As the trailer for Annabelle Comes Home indicates, the movie is about all of the objects in the Warren’s trophy room. Some sort of cameo from La Llorona seems like a definite possibility.

Overall, I felt disappointed in The Curse of La Llorona.

I feel like at this point, the desire to create this universe is starting to dilute the brand. I love The Conjuring movies, particularly the second one. Annabelle: Creation is solid, after a weaker initial entry, but The Nun and The Curse of La Llorona just feel like weaker and weaker attempts to cash in on the brand.

I took my son to see the movie with me, and the only positive he had about the film was that it helped him practice his Spanish. Not a strong vote for a horror film. If you enjoy jump scares, you will probably find enough to enjoy in ‘The Curse of La Llorona”, but I’m going to hold out and hope that Annabelle Comes Home’ is a return to franchise greatness.

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