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SYFY WIRE The Curse of La Llorona

The Curse of La Llorona's Patricia Velásquez on how horror brings people together

By Heather Mason
Patricia Velasquez - The Curse of La Llorona

Patricia Velásquez grew up hearing the story of La Llorona. In fact, she believes part of her role is to ensure the spirit's story is told properly.

"I also feel that for me and my participation in [The Curse of La Llorona] is almost like I had to make sure that it was done very respectfully and that she had me there to make sure it was done respectfully. And it was," said Velásquez.

In the upcoming horror film The Curse of La Llorona, from New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Pictures, Velásquez (The Mummy) plays a mother whose children are haunted by La Llorona, a Latin American folklore which is often used as a threat to make children behave. When her children are taken away by social worker Anna Garcia, played by Linda Cardellini, Velásquez's character Patricia is consumed by anger. La Llorona then turns her rage on Garcia's family, and Patricia must decide whether she will avenge her children.

SYFY FANGRRLS sat down with Velásquez to discuss her newfound love of horror, how stories are passed down throughout history, and the importance of community.

You mentioned that you weren't a big fan of horror before. And I feel the same way. I'm not like a huge horror person. But I did experience the community feeling you mentioned while watching this film. So, why do you think that's an important aspect of the movie-going experience?

Well, I think we as community, as the nature of human beings, we were not born to be alone. We are members of a community, and more and more we're losing these opportunities where we can just really share freely as a member of a community. And horror films and the experience of going to the movies, it brings that experience. So I think that's why it's so important. Because at the end of the day it doesn't matter how many separations we are trying to create from — whether it's class, money, or cultures, or languages. That is not what we want. At the end we do wanna be closer as a community. And horror films do that.

It felt like the relationship between your character and Linda's character, you kind of saw that go from being close to definitely some anger, and then kind of come back around. What do you think that we can learn from that experience of learning from the people around you that maybe you don't agree with?

What is so great about horror films sometimes is that they have wonderful female relationships. And when you see this film and the relationships between the women, and the women with themselves, and the transformation that they go through themselves, it's something that we as individuals also walk away with. And when you're trying to give a message, the best way to give a message is always when there's humor, when there's an intense emotion, you know, that it ends with a happy ending. Not for everybody, but at the end there's peace.

There are so many messages. When you think of La Llorona itself, [she's] a woman who killed what she loved the most. But she did it in her rage. And I always questioned, how far are we willing to go in our rage? When you are enraged by something, how far are you willing to go?

One of the reasons why La Llorona will stay forever is because of what she represents. For me, it's about our fears and the things that we do at a very early age. We learn to kill our little girl and our little boy within us. And then we spend the rest of our lives trying to get that back, right? So if there is something that we can walk away with, it's just to try to take care of your little kids within you.

That's really sweet.

It's true. Because that's what we do, right? So try to take care of the little kid in you. Don't let it go because of fear, because of anger, because of what society tells you. Why is it that we are born so innocent? And then we lose that innocence and we try to spend the rest of our life trying to find that innocence again.

Why do you think we, as a culture and as people, are so obsessed with supernatural things and things that are unexplained? What is it about it that keeps us coming back over and over?

Ever since we were on this earth we didn't have writing. Writing didn't exist. How do we pass on the knowledge and especially the culture? It has always been through legends, through stories. The indigenous communities where I come from, many of them didn't write until now. That's how cultures have survived.

[But] there has also been the supernatural. So there is something very much connected to the survival of the cultures at a very basic level through these supernatural stories. But now we have many ways to tell them, and we have a movie we can go see. It is a story of an American family, but it is touching on the story of the legend of La Llorona.

It doesn't matter how many things we have, the stories that we tell make us survive as cultures. They give us our values, they make us identify with our communities, and that's how we pass them along. And they will continue to be that way. It doesn't matter how techy this world might be.

It's just different formats of the same kind of storytelling that we've been doing for a long time.

Yeah. But we're still using the word though. We are. And that's why I feel like these supernatural stories will never go away, because they are a part of our survival.

You have children yourself. Do you feel like that influenced this character or how you approached it?

100%. It's because of being a mom that I was attracted to the story. How far are you willing to go in order to protect your children? As an actor is really a great way of even taking that fear out. Let me put it in my work. The biggest fear as a mom is to lose their children. So what a great way when you can do it through creative work, where you can exorcise that fear? It really helps. It's therapeutic. So yeah, I didn't have to go that far in order to access those emotions, because I had it right at home.

How do you feel horror specifically as a genre can help tell stories in a unique way or maybe teach lessons in a way that maybe other genres can't?

This is what exactly why I said before that I have now fallen in love with horror. What's so great about horror films is that through being afraid you can have these stories that can give good messages. When you think of La Llorona, here there are three really strong female roles of women that go through their own processes where you see protection, you see even friendship, and you see forgiveness, so there are all these stories that, at the end, they're very empowering.

And you don't have to be a woman to feel empowered by the film. No, you come out of the film and it's through story that is well done, that has very profound emotions. People walk away feeling empowered. They're scared, but also they have a really good message, and that's what's so great. Because the messages that stay with you are the messages that are given through these emotions. And because it's a part of a communal experience, then you feel like you're not alone.

When you do horror there's a lot more freedom. There's a lot less judgment. It's more of an experience in how great horror films are now becoming even better and better and better films. Horror is growing but it continues to grow, [and] it will continue to grow even more.

The Curse of La Llorona appears in theaters April 19.