The Conjuring universe keeps expanding its horizon with many unlikely, hit-or-miss ways making it one of the most successful sharing cinematic universes. Their recent cash-in period horror, The Curse of the Weeping Woman (also titled as The Curse of La Llorona), is based on a Mexican folk horror that dated back to the 17th century. La Llorona a.k.a. the weeping woman was once a woman who drowned her two children upon learning that her hidalgo husband chasing another woman; since then, she returns as a ghost who haunts and drowns other children of some poor women. There’s no telling why, but after at least two centuries, the Mexican ghost eventually made it all the way from south of the border to Los Angeles, where the 1973 horror takes place.
Anna Garcia (Linda Cardellini, Age of Ultron, Green Book) is a widowed social worker handling the case of Patricia Alvarez (Patricia Velasquez), another woman suspected of committing domestic violence and forced confinement to her two children. Unbeknownst to Anna, Patricia is only trying to keep her sons away from La Llorona. While arresting the mother, Anna sends the sons to the custody of foster care. Of course, the white-dressed, face-veiled apparition of La Llorona (Marisol Ramirez) eventually gets to them and drowns them in a nearby LA reservoir. In a sick twist of fate, La Llorona immediately gets attached to Anna—who also struggles in taking care of her two grief-stricken children (Roman Christou and Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen)—and begins to target them both.
We have seen horrors about a struggling single mother haunted by ominous power before: The Babadook beautifully executes it in 2014; while the Irish horror, The Hole in the Ground also carefully explores the idea of it recently. The Curse of La Llorona has all the drama that makes sense about a woman who still tries to cope up with the loss of her husband. There’s a big house with small family with no a fatherly figure and with a mother who must work her a— off to support her family; this family cannot be more vulnerable. The juxtaposition of Anna’s family with Patricia’s initially becomes an effective kick-starter to the horror that follows. But, there’s where the potential stops.
Michael Chavez, the upcoming Conjuring director (who also works on some horror shorts plus Billie Eilish’s Bury Your Friend music video), is a technical prodigy in scheming some cheap yet inventive sketches of jump-scares. The early mirror scene involving Alvarez boys was a straightforward scare; and so does the car scene with Garcia kids. Some of the apparitions are also A-grade; that includes the umbrella scene. And yet, when it comes to a full-length feature, it takes more than a series of jump-scare sketch that works. Chavez fills up the gaps between sketches with text-book tricks: slamming door, creaky floor, scoring discord by the Conjuring‘s bone and flesh, Joseph Bishara, and unfortunately many explicit apparitions of La Llorona. For a movie about ghost known for the scary weeping voice, Curse of La Llorona is too narcissistic with appearance.
The cultural discourse about how the foreign ghost finally stumble in other country is certainly not an appealing dish to feed the terror. Strange, creepy weeping sound out of nowhere is seemingly not a jump-scare materials. What seems to matter for Chavez (or possibly exec producer, James Wan) is the role of Tony Amendola’s Father Perez to give hint that this story, too, happens in the same universe as other Conjuring comrades (explicitly, Annabelle). Even though packed with creatively crafted jump-scares and dramas that make sense, The Curse of Weeping Woman a.k.a. La Llorona could never really reach its potential. It fails miserably in answering the most obvious questions.
The Curse of Weeping Woman (2019)
The Curse of La Llorona
Horror Directed by: Michael Chavez Written by: Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis Starred by: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velasquez, Marisol Ramirez Runtime: 93 mins