Can Hollywood Uphold a Genuine, Cultural Standard for this Well-Known Folklore, or Is it Whitewashed for the Masses?- The Curse of La Llorona (2019) Review
I remember when there were first talks about The Curse of La Llorona coming to the big screen. Me and so many others on Twitter, and around the world, were excited. The Curse of La Llorona (2019) was a slice of Mexican culture, a folklore crossing over to the mainstream media, and it was going be a large representation for Latinos everywhere. This representation, especially in such a mainstream way, like cinema- produced by a well-known horror pioneer of this generation, James Wan- felt like an important step for many. But as the trailers and more information rolled out on the film, the expectations of mine and others slowly dwindled away.
I wasn't able to catch the film in theaters, and it has been approximately 4 months since the initial release; so I decided to rent it from my nearby Redbox. As previously stated, my expectations were initially low for this film, but I felt it was worth a shot because for what it was worth, they attempted to display a new culture and heritage on film than what the masses are used to.
***La LLorona- There are a few story changes and different renditions about La Llorona. The main idea is about a beautiful woman named Maria. She fell in love with a handsome, wealthy man, and they had 2 sons together. After some time, though, Maria's husband started returning to his life of drinking and sleeping around. His infidelity and his eventual separation from Maria became too much to bear. She drowned their 2 sons in the river. Afterwards, she was so consumed by guilt and mourning that she spent all of her days strolling down along the river, waiting for her children to come back to her- crying the whole way. Eventually, she did pass away at the river, and her haunted soul stays there, crying, and looking for children to take away and drown.***
The film stars Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Marisol Ramirez, Patricia Velasquez, and Tony Amendola. Cardellini stars as Anna, a mother in 1970's California who works for DFS (Department of Family Services) as a social worker. Automatically, she has experience with children being taken from their parents through her job. She has two children herself, and with that, she has a bond with a woman named Patricia (Velasquez)- a woman whose case she has been working for some time. When there is an issue with Patricia's children and truancy, Anna is called down to check on them. When she gets there, Patricia has already been visited by the spirit of La Llorona, and she has been trying to keep her children safe.
Patricia didn't feel comfortable telling Anna about her paranormal ordeal, because let's be frank, she knew a white woman- and her social worker at that- wouldn't understand. But alas Patricia is just viewed as a deranged, unwell Latina, who is unfit to take care of her children, and they are taken away. Then, in a chain of unfortunate events, Anna's kids are now being haunted and hunted for by La Llorona.
Sidebar- A common theme in this film, and many other horror films, is that they insult the intelligence of children. A pet peeve of mine is when films portray children to be extremely daft and situationally unaware of danger. In many cases, children are a lot smarter than given credit for, and films need to start giving them credit. It's a small pet peeve of mine, but one that I am tired of crossing paths with.
So as Anna tries to navigate the loss of her husband and the struggles of being a single-working mom, her children are now put in imminent danger, and they don't know what to do.
This film chooses to briefly word out the folklore, and then ditch any other effort to, genuinely, bring it to life. The entire purpose, it seems, of this film is to serve as a side story to the larger Annabelle/Conjuring storyline. The film attempts to open small windows to the history and heritage, but not wide enough that it actually puts in any real effort. The ending of the film is everything short of an actual climax. It almost felt like they didn't know how to end the story, so even for the narrative it was trying to portray, they couldn't even bring it to a solid conclusion. If you are going to "Hollywood"ify an important culture element, story, or life, then at least succeed in that narrative. The horror CGI was not good at all. Horror doesn't need flashy CGI to be good, but if you decide to use it, it should not look like how it did in this film. So little care was taken, at least that's how it felt. The film did not feel cohesive. The story felt spotty, and the cinematography sometimes felt like it was different visions trying to tell one story.
They didn't care about their production, story, and characters that would be so influential and important for the audience they pretend to be aiming at. The film barely stars any Latino actors, and it barely contains any dialogue in Spanish. This film was not made for the Latin culture and people they used the story from. You can tell it was meant for another group of people. It's a watered down, unseasoned representation, and they somehow found a way to low-ball my already low expectations. There is a better adaptation of this story sitting on a shelf somewhere, and I hope we can see that on the big screen someday.
Jacindable Rating: ★
starring, Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Marisol Ramirez, Patricia Velasquez, Sean Patrick Thomas, Roman Christou, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, and Tony Amendola
written and directed by, Michael Chaves, Mikki Daughtry, and Tobias Iaconis