[Early Review] The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

Director: Michael Chaves

Cast: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Vasquez

Screenplay: Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis

93 mins. Rated R for violence and terror.

 

I had one major question about the marketing for this movie before I went in, and I left with that same question: why the hell did they not market this film as a part of The Conjuring Universe? It states on most of the material that the film has the same producers and studio as The Conjuring, but not once in the marketing is expressly stated. I just don’t get it. This film is not like Captain Marvel or Aquaman where you have the understanding going in that it naturally connects to a shared universe, so why the hell not use that angle in your marketing?

The Curse of La Llorona, based on Mexican folklore, follows Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini, Avengers: Age of Ultron, A Simple Favor), a widowed social worker and mother of two who is searching for foul play in a tragedy involving a case she has worked for some time. As she probes for information about the tragic events, her family begins to see supernatural horrors in the form of a weeping woman called La Llorona who has now targeted her kids. When the church is unable to help her, Anna turns to Rafael (Raymond Cruz, Alien: Resurrection, TV’s Major Crimes), a mystical former priest who believes he can stop La Llorona before the weeping woman claims Anna’s kids for herself.

The Conjuring franchise has struggled with quality in their spin-off films, and The Curse of La Llorona is no exception. I applaud it for choosing to hit its horror very early but that leads to a sacrifice in character development. We don’t get to know much about Anna’s kids and so our only fear from them comes from the fact that they are children and because the audience understands Anna’s love for them. Outside of that, though, they are tremendously underdeveloped.

Raymond Cruz gives great work here but I didn’t like that screenplay from Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis (Five Feet Apart) gave his character so much comic relief. After a bulk of the film contains virtually no comic relief, getting it at the end from a character the audience is supposed to look to for safety is an odd choice.

The Conjuring Universe has been trying this interconnected thing and it’s probably the second-best cinematic universe right now outside of the MCU juggernaut, but I haven’t been a fan of their forceful shoehorning of references in their films. In this film, there is stock footage of Annabelle to show how Tony Amendola’s character connects these two stories and it couldn’t have felt more forced if the director had paused the narrative and stepped out in front of the film to proclaim, “Here! Look here! This is how they connect!” The film doesn’t need that to thrive. Just have Father Perez reference the Annabelle doll like he did and let that be it. It will not alienate people who did not see the first Annabelle film and for those that get it, it will be all the more fun.

I feel like we should talk about the actual horror in the film. This is an angry spirit who, for the most part, has two major elements to her scares: her voice and her shock value. The voice is a really strong part of her character. There’s one scene in particular that works really well in the film where we don’t even see La Llorona but we hear her crying and then her scream just filled the atmosphere, putting all the candles out in the dimly lit home. It’s a great moment that we don’t get enough of. The other scare, though, is done all too often. This film is full of jump scares. La Llorona barely has buildup when she appears outside of the sound of her weeping. Most of the time, though, director Michael Chaves (The Maiden, TV’s Chase Champion) doesn’t let his film breathe enough to develop the scares. It’s something I really hope he learns to do before he gets behind the camera for The Conjuring III.

Overall, The Curse of La Llorona is very similar to The Nun. Both films have strength in their spiritual mythologies, but they both struggle with building their horror and rely all too often on jump scares. I think this will appeal to fans of The Conjuring Universe, and it’s a breath of fresh air for a series that has relied so heavily on the Warrens and the main Conjuring film mythology. I surely had a lot of fun in this theater experience, so if you see it, do so on opening weekend with a good-sized crowd.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Corin Hardy’s The Nun, click here.

For my review of David F. Sandberg’s Annabelle: Creation, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s The Conjuring, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s The Conjuring 2, click here.

For my review of Michael Chaves’s The Maiden, click here.

[Early Review] Five Feet Apart (2019)

Director: Justin Baldoni

Cast: Haley Lu Richardson, Cole Sprouse, Moises Arias, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, Parminder Nagra, Claire Forlani

Screenplay: Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis

116 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language and suggestive material.

 

Following in the footsteps of films like A Walk to Remember and The Fault in Our Stars, Five Feet Apart is a teen romance film dealing with a whole lot more than romance. It’s basis in Cystic Fibrosis gives it a shot of something I haven’t seen in a romance film, and unfortunately, that was the only thing unique about it.

Stella (Haley Lu Richardson, The Edge of Seventeen, Operation Finale) has CF, but she has a system. She knows what meds to take and when, when she needs to wear her afflovest, and exactly what she must do to remain on the list for new lungs. So when she meets Will (Cole Sprouse, The Suite Life Movie, TV’s Riverdale), another CF patient with no solid drug regimen, no plans to get better, and no hope, it drives her crazy. She insists that he let her help organize his drug cart in an effort to help him stay healthy, and in doing so, the two begin a bond that becomes something more powerful, but they cannot move forward together without breaking an important guideline for CF patients: that they cannot be closer than six feet to avoid cross-contaminating each other.

I found the Cystic Fibrosis layer of Stella to be incredibly interesting and powerful. I’ll be someone who admits to not know much about the ailment, so I was interested and captivated by her strength in fighting for each day. It’s nice that the filmmakers worked alongside the Claire’s Place Foundation to get all the details right about CF. I also found it interesting how she evolved as a character by her relationship with Will. Until the end. There’s some events and scenes surrounding her arc in the latter half of the film that I didn’t believe. There’s a lot about the third act that completely falls apart, in fact.

I think that Richardson and Sprouse had nice enough chemistry but nothing that really stuck. Their romantic relationship was one of the more boring elements of the film. It hits all the familiar beats of any romantic entanglements. At the end of the film, some bad decisions are made in the name of love, and I didn’t find myself seeing the point in the bad decisions. Where the relationship ends up at the end of the film is also something that seemed like exactly where I expected it to go. All in all, I was completely uninterested in the central crux of the story.

Five Feet Apart is rather forgettable as a love story but the CF stuff is interesting and insightful. Everything outside the romance is engaging at least. It’s just a problem that the film is a love story. Save your money on this one; there are better films at your cinema.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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