CREDIT: Warner Bros.

Starring: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Roman Christou, Marisol Ramirez, Sean Patrick Thomas, Tony Amendola

Director: Michael Chaves

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Rating: R for Intense Horror Makeup, Drowning, Skin Burns, and Some Gunshots

Release Date: April 19, 2019

It’s generally promising when a horror movie grounds itself in some well-crafted folklore, and The Curse of La Llorona offers a bit of an emotional doozy. Originating in Mexico, the tale of La Llorona (“The Weeping Woman” in English) is of a mother who drowned her two sons after becoming enslaved by a blind rage from discovering her husband with another woman. She now lurks the spirit world in a white gown, taking other children as her own and often drowning them as well. A notice posted by the studio outside the theater assured me that La Llorona is indeed somewhere out in the real world. You don’t have to believe in ghosts to accept that as effective showmanship. This is a monster with a formidable motivation, enough to make you go, “Well, what are we going to do if she targets us?”

The standoff comes to Linda Cardellini as a widowed mother working as a social worker in 1973 Los Angeles. She first encounters La Llorona through her work with children living in unsafe homes. If you want to, you can dig into the subtext about the entanglement of domestic abuse and folklore. But this film is more about the surface thrills of discovering just how the boogeyman will pop up when someone closes a bathroom cabinet or opens up an umbrella. If you’re looking for camera tricks that say “Boo!”, La Llorona will scratch that itch. It also excels in some surprisingly goofy tension-breaking, especially when Raymond Cruz (Tuco of Breaking Bad) shows up as an ex-priest mystic man to exorcise some evil spirits by rubbing eggs all over the house. Weirdly enough, that moment makes sense in context. Bottom line: La Llorona efficiently pulls off its weirder-than-expected approach with a confident use of the standard horror toolkit.

The Curse of La Llorona is Recommended If You Like: Mama, Annabelle, The power of the crucifix

Grade: 3 out of 5 White Gowns

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