(2019) (Linda Cardellini, Roman Christou) (R)
- QUICK TAKE:
- Horror: A mother tries to protect her kids from an evil spirit that wants to kill them.
- It's 1973 and Anna Tate-Garcia (LINDA CARDELLINI) is a widowed mom with two young kids, Chris (ROMAN CHRISTOU) and his younger sister, Samantha (JAYNEE-LYNNE KINCHEN). She works for child protective services in Los Angeles alongside the likes of Det. Cooper (SEAN PATRICK THOMAS), and her latest case concerns Patricia Alvarez (PATRICIA VELASQUEZ) whose kids haven't been at their school in days. When Anna does a home visit, she finds the kids locked in a closet while Patricia gets hysterical that she's opened that door.
Not long after that, both of those boys end up drowned in the nearby river. Anna is called to the site in the middle of the night and with no babysitter available, she brings her kids along but leaves them in the car off at a distance. But it's then that Chris has an encounter with La Llorona (MARISOL RAMIREZ), a.k.a. The Weeping Woman, who grabs his arm, leaving bloody burn marks there. It turns out she's a centuries-old evil spirit that Patricia was trying to protect her kids from, and it's not long before Samantha and Anna also have run-ins with the spirit. A local priest gives them the low-down about that entity who drowned her own kids back in 1673 and has been searching for new victims to replace them ever since.
He sends them to a former priest, Rafael Olvera (RAYMOND CRUZ), who might be able to help them, albeit through unorthodox and certainly not church sanctioned ways. As the encounters with La Llorona increase, Anna does what she can to protect her kids.
- OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
- Not a lot of movies stand up over the passage of a fairly significant amount of time since they were first released, especially those featuring special effects of one sort of another. Yet, here we are now a bit more than a quarter of a century since "Jurassic Park" came out and the flick and its effects work still hold up fairly well.
Obviously, much of that has to do with Michael Crichton's source material, Steven Spielberg's direction, John Williams' score, the performances and so on. But most great movies have great scenes that burrow their way into your cinema psyche for most if not all of the rest of your life, and "JP" has its share. But the most memorable, at least to yours truly, was the sequence where the T-Rex attacks a jeep in which two siblings are hiding.
That might sound like an odd way to start a review for a supernatural-based horror flick, but a brief scene in "The Curse of La Llorona" had me flashing back to that T-Rex vs. Jeep moment. And that's when two siblings (Roman Christou and Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) are in a car by themselves at night when a supernatural spirit attacks, including the boy needing to keep the roll-down windows closed, much like the kid in Spielberg's movie had to get that Jeep door closed with that huge dinosaur lurking right there.
It's probably the best sequence in this latest offering in "The Conjuring" movie universe -- more about that in a moment -- but like the rest of the film not only does it not make sense when viewed in hindsight (if the spirit after the kids can be anywhere when she wants, why does she need to slowly roll down the windows on an early '70s car), but it and everything else about this offering will be long forgotten while "Jurassic Park" will remain considered a classic, especially in the "kids in jeopardy" category of movies.
Regarding the "Conjuring" association, it's fleeting at best as the children's mother (Linda Cardellini) visits a priest who says he's dealt with the supernatural before (at which point there's a brief flashback view of the Annabelle doll) and mentions a couple (presumably referring to Ed and Lorraine Warren) who often help in such matters. But since the now-widowed former cop wife needs immediate assistance, a former priest (Raymond Cruz) offers his "who ya gonna call" services. All of which leads to the big supernatural showdown at the end of the third act.
Of course, lots of things go bump in the night before that, and following a brief prologue -- featuring a 17th century Mexican woman drowning one of her children and then grabbing the other for the same treatment -- we see Anna working as a child protective services agent who visits a seemingly unhinged mother (Patricia Velasquez) who has her two kids locked in a closet with burn marks on their wrists. By removing them, Anna sets into motion the spirit of that 17th-century woman not only coming after those kids, but then her own.
Working from a script by Mikki Daughtry & Tobias Iaconis, director Michael Chaves delivers the usual array of "What's that sound I hear? I think I'll slowly walk through the dimly lit house without turning on the lights" moments that have long since worn out their welcome and lost most of their effectiveness through unimaginative repetition. As has the spooky female spirit with the shrouded face who suddenly charges at the camera in close-up for attempted jump scares.
A few script tweaks here and there could have resolved some of those matters, but the overriding big issue -- that usually bedevils many of these sorts of films -- expands on the aforementioned "need to get in the car" sequence and repurposes that for others.
Simply put, it's like the spirit is playing with her intended victims like a cat can do with a mouse before eventually putting it out of its misery. That would have been one approach, but it doesn't seem to be the case here and instead, we simply get lazy storytelling where it makes no sense why the haunting drags on for so much of the film's 90-some minute running time.
Now, if a hungry T-Rex or raptor had been after the kids -- or showed up to deal with the centuries-old spirit -- that might have been something. Alas, it's not, and thus it appears the curse of "The Curse of La Llorona" will be that it will be forgotten by the end of the year, if not sooner. It rates as a 4 out of 10.
Reviewed April 16, 2019 / Posted April 19, 2019
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