“The Conjuring” universe takes another turn in “The Curse of La Llorona,” the latest spinoff of the popular horror franchise that is about as loosely connected as possible – both in the storyline and filmmaking. It’s a horror film that is saddled down by too many of the genre’s cliches – a ghost story with few chills or thrills.
“La Llorona” begins in Mexico in 1673 when a seemingly happily married woman inexplicably drowns her two children.
Flash forward to 1973 in Los Angeles and that murder has become folklore, with many believing the ghost of the woman responsible for those murders hunts down children to take for her own.
A recently widowed social worker named Anna (Linda Cardellini) learns of the legend when two children she is assigned to mysteriously die and their mother Patricia (Patricia Velásquez) blames the death on the entity – while also cursing the spirit to take Anna’s two children Chris and Samantha (Roman Christou and Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen).
As the spirit closes in on her children, Anna turns to a former priest who now fights evil spirits named Rafael (Raymond Cruz) to help her stop La Llorona and save her children.
The film is essentially nothing more than a series of horror cliches – dark rooms and dark corridors where first-time director Michael Chaves has the ghost popping out at just the right moment to create scares.
The problem is it’s all pretty standard setups, with most of the boos coming from quick appearances in mirrors or sudden appearances that are way too easy to see coming.
Cardellini is fine as the grieving widow trying to protect her children, but the script really doesn’t give her much to do but be in the wrong place at the wrong time so the ghost can wreak havoc on the children.
Cruz is a welcome addition in the second half, bringing a bit of humor to the movie. It’s as if he understands this is all a bunch of hogwash and at least has fun with what he is given to work with.
About the only real creativity in “La Llorona” is how flimsy they tie the film to “The Conjuring,” but even that – a blink and you’ll miss it flashback – barely registers in the film. If “The Conjuring” wants to continue to expand its world, it’s time to find better scripts – and more original scares.