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If you ever hear someone crying in a pitch-black alley, be smart and just walk the other way. You’ll avoid being in a horror movie.

Directed by Michael Chaves, The Curse of La Llorona stars Linda Cardellini, Roman Christou, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velasquez and Marisol Ramirez.

Based on the Mexican folktale, a woman suspected of murdering her children warns a social worker on her case that a ghost by the name of La Llorona will come to drown her children. Not heeding the warning, the Child Protective Services agent and her kids are now haunted by the demonic woman.

La Llorona hits some marks as a real-life folktale come true, but a poorly executed and a by-the-numbers story hinders it from becoming a worthy stand-alone movie in connection to The Conjuring film universe.

Hollywood needs to act like an adult, in more ways than one. It’s clear with films like Don’t Breathe, Get Out and Split are signs that taking risks and relying on the art and creativity of filmmakers works better than playing it safe.

La Llorona has the benefit of already having a solid background to help bounce as a frightening movie. Adapted screenplays like It and Halloween do well with audiences because of the talent on and off camera, making them more charismatic and believable.

La Llorona lacks charm, and I can’t begin to describe my disdain for a shoe-horned inclusion to a horror universe that, for the most part, has higher highs than lower lows.

It starts out as vanilla as you’d think: A character is introduced as the non-believing protagonist, then is launched in the world of spirits, is haunted and, by the end, is a better and stronger person because of it.

Nothing strikes me as original in that brief synopsis. I couldn’t be less thrilled.

On top of that, even with a cast mainly of Hispanic decent, La Llorona can’t do its origin justice with how boring the in between scenes felt. Maybe that’s why the jump scares outweigh the sense of dread and true horror.

As our film vessel, Cardellini does what she can to elevate the potholes. She makes it a bit less heavy-handed for us to feel the dismay in the air.

However, a horror film accomplishes its job when the audience screams, or their arm hair is raised with goosebumps. Does The Curse of La Llorona do just that?

Barely.

I’m not one to shy away from a good jump scare, especially when it applies itself alongside a creepy atmosphere and a harrowing journey. La Llorona, unfortunately, relies on the jolt of a single moment far too often.

The first act has promise and starts out kind of cliché, but scary nonetheless. The best bit, so to speak, is shown in the trailer, though. The movie shines with moments like the two lead kids are in their mother’s car and La Llorona is turning the roll down windows slowly. You can’t even see anything rolling them down; it’s super creepy.

But then comes a loud screech with the face of La Llorona chasing towards the camera like a bullet shot out of the barrel of a gun. It ruins a perfectly good scene of, what could have been, future nightmares.

Maybe if La Llorona were to come out in 2005, it would have been a breath of fresh air. With how it is now, I’m disappointed.

This lousy try at recreating The Conjuring, albeit Cardellini’s solid performance and a few moments of real terror, should be ashamed and needs to let go of the only connection it has with a wholly beloved franchise: A small cameo from a certain pig-tailed, creepy doll.

The Curse of La Llorona

3.5

Hits
  • Impending doom shines in very small doses
  • Cardellini's good go at trying to salvage a snooze
Misses
  • A by-the-numbers story
  • Wasteful connection to a solid franchise
  • Jump scares, jump scares, jump scares

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