Cultural Appropriation in the avocado jumpscare of death
Writers: Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis
Director: Michael Chaves
Starring: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velasquez
I’m going to just breathe deep and get right to the point, The Curse of La Llorona (The Curse of the Weeping Woman in australian markets) is the kind of movie you watch if you feel you have done the world wrong and need to punish yourself into atonement. Allow me to try and explain that a slightly better way: I was very tempted to bury a .gif jumpscare in the middle of this text and simply point to it as my entire review, and honestly, I wouldn’t completely feel like I had been unfair to anyone.
This movie isn’t bad in a “So Bad it’s good” manner, but rather a more banal slow trudge through a long workday. However, it’s easy to just label a film bad, so let’s go through the SPOILERS AHEAD banner and revel in the myriad of reasons why The Curse of La Llorona gives us all something to cry about.
This review doesn’t get categories. But lets start with “Plot” and work from there.
La Llorona is a folktale from Mexico originally personified in the late 1800’s by poet Manuel Carpio. In his work, La Llorona is a woman weeping over her death at the hands of her husband. The film approaches this by, logically, making the story the tale a a woman who murdered her children and is stalking families in a violent chain across Los Angeles California. Makes sense right?
But I am being unfair. While the oldest known written source of the folklore is indeed about a murdered wife, most modern interpretations of the legend do focus around an infanticidal mother who travels rivers crying over the children she drowned, any children she finds or that are drawn to her wailing, are mistaken for hers and promptly drowned. I’m being a bit loose with the full folktale because, it’s really unconnected to this film in any way. It’s used as a backdrop with no sense of substance. This is just a generic ghost story that could use any spirit in the place of our big bad and there would be no difference.
Here is where the director had a chance to create a well constructed film based around an established legend of Mexico and present this story from that unique cultural viewpoint, and instead decided to move the story to America and cast a prominent white actress. Sadly, it goes even deeper as, when a Mexican actor or actress does appear in the movie and speaks spanish, they’re not subtitled. Nope. The movie elects to have them speak the entire line in untitled Spanish, then repeat the exact same line in English. Because remember, it’s a Mexican folktale. They become part of the set dressing to sell the reminder to American audiences they are watching something that will make them feel cultural, when they are just being fed and endless string of light jumpscares and (Quite literally) reused monster makeup.
So far I’ve not even gotten to the main story of the actual movie itself. But in fairness, at every turn this film takes the laziest path. So I’m going to do that here as well.
La Llorona begins with a Mother being chased by the evil Weeping Woman/Totally not a nun clone, with her children, while also being pursued by our real main character who is under the belief the Mother is a kidnapper. They catch her and thus La Llorona catches, and kills, the children. Then sets her sights on the American main character who captured the mother and begins stalking her. The ghost terrorizes the main characters and family with numerous jumpscares until they hire an Hispanic man to help them maybe defeat her, in that way that lets you know she’ll be back if they make enough money.
The major issue, racial appropriation aside, is there is nothing here. I can’t spoil the movie because there is nothing of consequence that happens. If you repeatedly blare loud noises people will react. That’s not horror. And in my own defence, I don’t feel I’m overplaying the stressing on Jumpscares in this movie. They play a loud sound and flash up close on everything from a child’s own reflection, to a car door unlocking suddenly. BOOOO! The doors unlocked now!
The biggest “twist” of the film is the appearance of Tony Amendola as Father Perez who comes on the mainstage to, I’m not kidding, talk about Annabelle for 8 minutes and reveal this is another Conjuring spinoff. Because of course it is.
Of course it is.
This actually was a decent twist because, if nothing else, it let me understand the director just only had one idea, and someone wasn’t just plagiarizing the Nun. The striking similarities between the two movies are so numerous I consider it low hanging fruit and will just leave an image or two at the end for you to compare. I tend to not view trailers and to enter a film fresh and raw, ready for the story, but in this instance I had to return to the advertising after my viewing to see if this was more obvious than I had thought. No, the advertising and trailers go out of their way to hide this films connections to the conjuring. Ironically, I feel this would have prepared people more for the rough half script that was to come, but I also understand why it was done.
While it’s very clear that the director was deeply passionate about this project, overall this movie is bad in all the wrong ways. From it’s forced entry into another universe, to it’s misleading draw towards Hispanic audiences, whitewashing a cultural story, direct character reskinning for the monster, and most shamefully, a painfully generic script. This movie might be worth the watch if you really enjoy random loud noises and things flying at the screen, but in any other circumstances, save your money even if you can see this film for free.
Effects and acting:
Normally I would break this into two seperate sections and go into details on each at length, but I feel very little incentive to do this here. The special effects are identical to that in all the conjuring movies. Very finely crafted, but used to minimal effect to such a degree it leaves you feeling you missed the point. The acting was in a likewise state, very finely crafted, but so wasted on bland script that it seems to have no real impact on the viewer, sadly reducing what could have been solid four-star material into dry exponential filler.
If you are the type of viewer who derives their pleasure from loud noises and things popping up in front of the screen, this movie is the movie for you.
If you like anything else, at all, in cinema, pass this one up and save yourself some tears.