James Wan‘s shared universe of horror films further expanded this year with the release of The Curse of La Llorona. Though only loosely connected to the mainline films, this new entry added yet another evil spirit in the form of its titular villainess.
The film opens with a young boy walking through the woods before stumbling upon his mother in her wedding dress, drowning his sibling. Frightened, he attempts to flee as we cut to the present.
Social worker Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini) takes it upon herself to personally handle the case of Patricia Alvarez (Patricia Velasquez), whom she has worked with before, after her office is notified of her sons’ absence from school.
With a police officer in tow, Anna visits Patricia’s apartment to check on the two boys and the condition of the home. Anna finds it lit only by a candle shrine by the window — and no sign of the children. That is, until she hears a noise coming from the closet. The two boys had been locked inside in what Anna perceives as a case of child abuse, but Patricia violently protests that she’s doing it to protect them and attacks Anna when she tries to free her sons. The officer arrests Patricia and the boys are taken into custody.
Child Protection Services interviews the boys, who back their mother’s story, but no one believes them. Later that night, the boys, unable to fall asleep, wander the halls of the Child Protection Services facility to find La Llorona, the spirit of the mother who drowned her children, has come after them. Elsewhere, Anna is woken by a phone call from the police, stating that they’ve found the drowned bodies of Patricia’s children. Anna goes to the scene, where a devastated and irate Patricia put the blame for her children’s deaths solely on Anna. Meanwhile, La Llorona sets her sights on Anna’s children as her next victims.
The ever-expanding world of James Wan’s Conjuring universe of films is an interesting one to behold. Built on the foundation of real-life paranormal investigation cases by Ed and Lorraine Warren with the original Conjuring in 2013, the series has now expanded with one highly successful spin-off series (the Annabelle films), another solo spin-off (The Nun) that has its own sequel in the works, and finally this new addition that brings the folk tale of La Llorona into the fold. While the Warrens do not factor into this story at all, and the connection between this and larger universe is minimal, the possibilities presented with this film make it entirely intriguing.
Taking the typical formula as a precedent and using it to further explore other spiritual aspects already established in previous films, gives The Curse of La Llorona its own interesting experience in contrast to the other Conjuring universe films. As any good spin-off or sequel should do, this film expands on what has been previously done by introducing other practices to combat evil spirits, while also incorporating those evil spirits into the lore that’s already been presented. The inclusion of this Latin American folktale makes the world that these films inhabit feel more lived in and diverse, which would later be expanded on to an extent in Annabelle Comes Home.
That said, the film’s rudimentary narrative in telling the story of a transferrable curse from one set of children to the next severely limits the appeal of this film. Whereas you want to see a deeper connection to the great Conjuring universe at large, the film instead settles for the scares the franchise has become all too familiar with, just without James Wan’s directorial polish on this film.
The film does a decent job of setting the mood and atmosphere for the scares, but the execution falls a bit flat. Had the movie leaned more heavily into its connection with the greater Conjuring universe of films, it would have definitely been a lot more memorable. As is, The Curse of La Llorona is serviceable fare. ~Paolo Maquiraya
The Myth of La Llorona: Two-minute featurette about the Latin American folktale that works better as a prelude to the next featurette.
Behind the Curse: Near 10-minute featurette in which cast and crew discuss the myth and origins of La Llorona and their desire to do the story justice.
The Making of a Movie Monster: Five-minute featurette taking a look at the actress playing the titular character, Marisol Ramirez, and how through makeup and costuming she is transformed into La Llorona.