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Sorry, horror fans, but it sounds like the James Wan-produced The Curse of La Llorona isn't such a great or horrifying addition to the Conjuring cinematic universe.
The initial reviews for the film (directed by greenhorn Michael Chaves) have begun to trickle in from SXSW in Austin, and while there are a handful of good performances and genuine chills, they can't help save the project from formulaic repetition and cliches.
Penned by the Five Feet Apart writing duo of Mikki Daughtry and Tobias laconis, the movie, set in the 1970s, follows Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini), a social worker attempting to keep her two children safe from the supernatural force known as "La Llorona." Translating as "the Weeping Woman" in English, La Llorona is a terrifying staple of Latin American folklore, which (per donquixote.com) tells of a woman, Maria, who drowned her two sons and, after being denied entry into Heaven, wanders the Earth, looking for souls to take as her own.
The Curse of La Llorona co-stars Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez, Sean Patrick Thomas, Tony Amendola, and Irene King.
Check out what the critics are saying below before La Llorona curses theaters everywhere April 19 ...
"First-time feature director Michael Chaves is a great deal short of subtle while, as regularly as clockwork, he utilizes La Llorona (portrayed by Marisol Ramirez as a decrepit apparition in a white gown and veil) to provide the jarring pay-off for slow-build scenes featuring sudden gusts of wind, slamming doors and windows, and portentous shots of dripping faucets, unwinding car-window handles, and a backyard swimming pool that appears roughly the size of Rhode Island." -Joe Lyedon, Variety
"It’s a bummer, because La Llorona is such a cool, spooky folktale, and a movie about the weeping woman produced by James Wan sounds like a no-brainer. But everything’s just so half-baked and lazy here, the direction and especially the storytelling. It seems as if The Curse of La Llorona was broken from its very inception, because instead of starting with, 'Wouldn’t it be cool if we told a story about La Llorona?' the producers asked, 'Wouldn’t it be cool if we sneaked another movie into the Conjuring universe?' La Llorona herself feels like an afterthought. No wonder she’s weeping." -Meredith Borders, /Film
"The performances help elevate the movie a bit, and it's nice to see Linda Cardellini, who only seems to get better as her career progresses, get to carry something on her shoulders. Raymond Cruz also has a fun turn here as the reluctant religious figure who must exorcize this demon, while also serving as the comedic relief. It's a movie that does the quiet/loud thing reasonably well. Quiet while building tension, loud to release it. Wash, rinse, repeat. The standard for these types of movies. But there are some standout scares and sequences in the bunch." -Ryan Scott, MovieWeb
"There are pieces in the film that feel interesting, but as a whole it’s clear that Chaves was a hired hand to make a Wan-like movie. From Wan’s signature tracking shots down to the ghost’s design itself (La Llorona gives off intense Bride in Black vibes), there is nothing original in this movie that has curiously been plopped into The Conjuring franchise. Just because you have all the pieces, doesn’t mean the jigsaw puzzle is going to feel like the master’s creation." -Jenny Nulf, The Austin Chronicle
"Director Michael Chaves makes an impressive directorial debut with The Curse of La Llorona, and within a few minutes you will realize why he was given the keys to the next Conjuring movie (he's set to direct Conjuring 3). He knows where to place the camera so that you're always wary of what’s lurking at the corner of the screen, as well as maintaining an ominous atmosphere through the use of darkness and shadow. He also knows how to pull a good jump scare, even though the film relies too much on the same sound effect and jump scare repeatedly. After the 30th time the camera pans to reveal La Llorona standing where five seconds before there was nothing, you will beg for something new to happen on screen." -Rafael Motamayor, GameSpot
"Tradeoff or no, the ghost — a yellow-eyed creep weeping icky black tears and wearing a wedding dress — does start haunting Sam and Chris, moving through their nighttime environs in a series of cheap jump-scares. The pic relies so heavily on these 'boo!' moments that, midway through, the viewer protected by shamanistic magic stopped even experiencing a reflexive twitch when they occurred." -John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter
"The main issue with The Curse of La Llorona is it’s a tried-and-true story. The main plot of this film has been done so many times before. The movie is a generic ghost story that replaces random ghost No. 3 with the legendary La Llorona. The family in the film gets attacked by a spirit, no one really believes them about it, they contact the church and then finally someone comes over to protect them using incantations and crosses. With so many unique voices in horror today, it's a shame that screenwriters are recycling the same type of overdone story. The film also seems to lack a sense of pacing. La Llorona is visibly seen within the first act of the film, something that may have been better to keep shrouded in mystery until a rewarding reveal." -Noah Levine, The Daily Texan
"Much of this movie’s story and overall execution is right in line with the Conjuring-verse, but now this entry—the sixth in the franchise—has further exposed the series’ increasing reliance on formula. The creative architecture of the film is the same as in the preceding five films, the same pacing and tone, largely the same stock scares at this point. While there can be comfort in the familiar there is also frustration, especially when the premise of this particular piece of folklore could lend itself to even better and scarier exploration. Maybe it will in another inevitable sequel or spin-off of the franchise." -Jim Vejvoda, IGN
"The production values are great and the scares are aplenty; La Llorona is effectively creepy. But, both she and the heritage from which she came should’ve been the focal point. Save for the barebones backstory that explains her presence, there’s not a lot of depth to her or her background despite centuries of rich folkloric history. The most interesting characters — Patricia, curandero Rafael, and La Llorona herself — are kept at arm’s length in favor of focusing on a family we feel for because they’re under supernatural attack." -Megan Navarro, Bloody Disgusting
"Unfortunately, the film is hamstrung by a script from Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis (who’s only other feature credit, the YA drama Five Feet Apart, just hit theaters) that does absolutely nothing with all its potential. The themes of child abuse — a particularly relevant subplot in a film about La Llorona — are all but ignored, and the characters are often written dumb as posts in order to facilitate the next scare. One scene is so egregious in that regard, it’s becomes hard to care about that character again." -Haleigh Foutch, Collider