Set in The Conjuring Universe in the 1970s, The Curse of La Llorona is an okay flick that walks the line between a big budget film student project and a troubled attempt at conveying a traditional story. I rate it two stars. The screenwriting was okay, the special effects were somewhat cheesy, and the character development was off-center.
To the credit of the editors and producers, the trailer wasn’t a dead giveaway for the plot. The trailer had a slight air of suspense about it, but it betrayed the movie as being one that would have jumpscares. The majority of the jumpscares were early in the movie, so there is some credit for not relying on them completely. Despite that, the tension building was weak. One way to build tension is to use tension building music and show something creepy or concerning to give it the ominous feeling. Half of the time the tension building music played and then nothing happened, leaving it awkward. Other times a scare moment came with no tension and was mostly confusing.
It was also noticeable that different people had worked on different parts of the movie, especially when it came to cinematography. Some scenes felt like they were copies of a 70s drama while others felt like they were trying to pull some sneaky new age camera trickery. The two did not mix and instead came across confused.
Confusion is one of the major components of the movie, and that is very apparent in the special effects. They weren’t exactly horrible, but they weren’t good either. Overall they were decent as far as practical effects, but when CGI was introduced it got weird. A lot of the CGI made some sort of sense in context, but it was all off in some way that suggested a lack of finesse work from the animators.
Another thing that needed work was the character development. From La Llorona to the protagonist, Anna (Linda Cardellini), there was much lacking from the characters. The kids were the heart of this attempt at The Exorcist and they were mostly ghost bait. None of the characters felt all that relatable except for the mexican mother (Patricia Velasquez) who lost her children in the first act to La Llorona. This is bad because she gets less screen time than La Llorona while Anna, the widow doing her best to raise her kids, has no moments of deep personal revelation because her character lacks emotion beneath the surface throughout the hour and a half runtime. Overall, The Curse of La Llorona needs work. It lacks nuance and disappoints when it comes to both traditional and horror filmmaking. It didn’t rely on jumpscares, but it also has a troubled relationship with actual tension. The writing had some decent work, as did the special effects, but neither were inspiring. The sound was the best part of the movie, while the worst was character development. I rate The Curse of La Llorona two stars, the folk tale deserves a better movie.