Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Michael Chaves

Stars: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Marisol Ramirez, Patricia Velasquez, Roman Christou, Jaynee Lynne Kinchen, Tony Amendola.

Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, and Roman Christou in The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

Known in some territories as The Curse Of La Llorona, this is the latest chapter in James Wan’s supernatural Conjuring universe, but The Curse Of The Weeping Woman is far from the best film in the series that includes both The Conjuring and its sequel, Annabelle, etc. The sixth film in the Conjuring series, this is a weak spin off and comes across as a formulaic, predictable and cliched haunted house drama.

The film is based around a centuries-old legend from Mexico. In the 17th century, a woman (Marisol Ramirez) drowned her two children as revenge against her cheating husband and then committed suicide. According to the legend she now wanders the earth as a ghost looking for more children to drown. Cut to Los Angeles in 1973. Social worker Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini, from Scooby Doo, etc) is a widowed mother with two children who becomes involved in the case of Patricia (Patricia Velasquez), a single mother who has been forcing her two children to live in a closet to keep them safe from the titular weeping woman, known as La Llorona.

Unaware of this, Anna removes the children and places them in foster care, leaving them vulnerable for the vengeful spirit who promptly drowns them in the local reservoir. The distraught mother then curses Anna and places her and her two children – Chris (Roman Christou) and Samantha (Jaynee Lynne Kinchen) – in harm’s way. Anna has to protect her children by any means against an ancient spirit she doesn’t quite understand. Thus we get the usual haunted house scenario with ghosts, children in peril, and a priest called (Raymond Cruz) in to perform the requisite exorcism.

The lazy and derivative script comes from Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis (who wrote the recent YA tear jerker Five Feet Apart) and it ticks off all the boxes for the genre. There a lots of allusions to other films in the Conjuring universe, and a brief appearance from Tony Amendola as Father Perez provides a strong link to Annabelle. He briefly explains the legend to Anna and sends her to father Olivra (Raymond Cruz, from Breaking Bad, etc), a faith healer, to exorcise the demonic presence. But the film also references other films like Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror, etc, providing a familiarity to the narrative.

Cardellini has a likeable presence and she tries hard to elevate the cliched material with a solid performance as the protective mother desperate to save her children from supernatural forces. Ramirez has a spooky and chilling presence as the titular supernatural child snatching spirit, dressed in white and her pale face layered in eerie white make-up and caked on bloody tears. Cruz brings a touch of humour to the film as the disillusioned former priest to whom Anna turns to for help.

Wan remains attached to the project as a producer, but he has handed over the reins to first time feature director Mike Chaves, who has made a handful of short films. However, his influence is all over the finished product. Chaves uses lots of carefully placed jump scares and creates a spooky atmosphere with a soundscape that includes slamming doors, dripping taps, creaking floorboards, and eerie winds sweeping through the house creating an air of unseen menace.

Much of the action is confined to the inside of Anna’s house, and Chaves develops an air of claustrophobia. Lots of scenes take place in muted lighting and in heavy shadows, and cinematographer Michael Burgess (The Nun, The Conjuring 2, etc) uses natural lighting to create an unsettling mood. But this renders some of the action virtually unwatchable. Regular composer Joseph Bishara (Insidious, etc) again provides the shrill score.

The legend of the weeping woman is an interesting one and should have been better used to shape a more edgy and unsettling film than this mildly disappointing and by-the-numbers generic horror film from a filmmaker who should know better.


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