The Curse of La Llorona is based on an authentic Latin folktale that has frightened children for generations. La Llorona (the Weeping Woman) is said to wander the water’s edge after dark, steal children and drown them. The legends say the softer the sound of her weeping, the closer she actually is to you. It’s the kind of story that can keep you scared of the dark into your adult years. This fact seems to be lost on the film’s makers. It neglects a truly creepy story with real-world origins in an effort to inject textbook jump scares and imitate previous horror films.
According to the legend’s most common version, the Weeping Woman was a beautiful Mexican girl who married a nobleman. When she found out her husband was unfaithful, she went mad with jealous rage and drowned their two sons in the river. When she regained her senses, she went back to find her children, but they had already been washed away. She died shortly after and was condemned to walk the Earth as a cursed spirit, forbidden from entering the afterlife until she finds her sons. To this day, parents throughout Latin America terrify their children by telling them if they stay out too late, La Llorona might mistake them for her own children and drown them in the river.
The bulk of the movie takes place in 1970s Los Angeles. Anna Garcia is a social worker who removes two children from their mother after learning she kept them locked in a closet to protect them from an evil spirit. The kids are found dead by a river a mere hours after being put in foster care. Patricia, the children’s mother, is convinced La Llorona is responsible. Seized by the same kind of madness that condemned the Weeping Woman, Patricia calls on La Llorona to take Anna’s children as well and let her feel the same pain.
Linda Cardellini, who plays Anna, gives a convincing performance as a single mother struggling to make it in LA. Roman Christou and Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen likewise give an impressive performance as Anna’s children, Chris and Samantha. However, the acting is not enough to distract from the thin storyline and predictable script. The background of the La Llorona legend is given very little attention, as is the cultural context that it came from. The film instead relies on periodic jump-scares. Some of which are genuinely scary, others of which are either predictable or cliché. The weak link to The Conjuring universe comes off as little more than an effort to boost the film’s earnings by connecting it to a successful horror franchise. That, combined with all the “I know I’ve seen that before” moments gives the movie an overly generic and commercialized vibe. It almost feels disrespectful of a historic element of Hispanic folklore. The Curse of La Llorona is a regrettable waste of a unique premise in the horror film industry.