Few things beat a packed theater during the opening weekend of a horror flick. I did not hear very good things about La Llorona and my expectations were fairly low. But… I was pleasantly surprised. Granted, if I had gone to see it two weeks from now without that special sort of energy, I may feel a little differently tonight. But, that’s not the case and I’d say it was a lot of fun. Parts of it felt somewhat formulaic, but the theater was filled with screams, gasps, giggles and collective sharp anticipatory intakes of air, the kind that are only audible because dozens of people are doing it in unison. And for me, that’s always been my favorite kind of horror. The stuff that makes you feel like a kid, sitting in a theater, snacks at the ready, laughing your head off with your friends at whoever jumped the highest or screamed the loudest.
The legend of La Llorona is Mexican folklore, and initially I was confused as to why the lead role was not filled by a Latina. But the storyline made it make sense, and I suppose by having the lead character not be Latina, the audience was explained the legend as the lead character was learning about it in that inevitable expositional monologue.
And now, for some spoilers. Stop here if you haven’t watched the movie yet…
Protagonist Anna is the widow of a police officer. There were a few instances where she went not just against regular Mom instinct, but especially went against Mom/Cop’s wife instinct. Same goes for the kids. Cop kid instinct is a thing. These characters, lacked that instinct so severely that at times they crossed over into fully lacking common sense. Pretty fuckin’ terrible instincts even if they weren’t a police family. I realize these actions propel the story forward, but I always prefer writing that takes the time to allow the characters to make smart decisions and figures out other ways to get them into certain plot points without having them lack total common sense.
Why is the little girl so calm when the car windows are rolling down and doors are unlocking of their own accord, meanwhile her brother is freaking the fuck out and racing to keep everything rolled up and locked?! Even if you don’t know what’s going on… the fact that the shit is moving on its own is enough to also freak the fuck out.
I wish they had used far more practical effects for La Llorona’s face. Sometimes they did, but more often than not they went real heavy with the CGI. The fear factor would have absolutely been upped had they steered clear of that as much as possible. It took on a more cartoon-like parody vibe in those moments, and there’s nothin’ scary about that. Those instances felt like wasted opportunity.
There was a point where I felt it was so formulaic, that I was essentially watching The Conjuring. Right down to the distinctly Pasadena home and the inevitable visit to Father Perez wherein we are served up a heaping pile of exposition. Only the supernatural entity in question had simply been swapped out with a familiar tale from Mexican folklore. Initially I also wondered why they chose to set it in the 70’s. It didn’t seem particularly well done as far as creating a period piece, but then I wondered if this was because it was going to exist in the same universe as The Conjuring, Annabelle, etc. And that’s exactly what happened. Confirmed at some point in the film with some crossover reference. I guess in a way that slightly helped to excuse the semi formulaic sequence of events. But also… even existing in the same universe, what a haunted ass hotbed of a America Pasadena is within The Conjuring universe. Home to possessed dolls and a series of La Llorona hauntings? Father Perez has got his hands full, folks.
I’m sure there are more but I’m not gonna tear the thing apart. Take it for what it is and those qualms are forgivable.
Best part of the movie: As the curandero attempts to cleanse the house, “Are you just going to rub eggs over everything?”
So, should you see it or not?
There are some silly parts for sure. A bit of cheese sprinkled in. There were times when we laughed when we weren’t necessarily supposed to. But if you go into it with the right mindset I feel like it can add to the fun of the movie. Lots of jump scares. Mostly on the nose predictable, but still fun to watch, especially with a crowd. Especially if you’ve got particularly jumpy friends. Take them if you do. It will make your experience infinitely more enjoyable. If you grew up with the legend, I feel like it adds another element of nostalgia, giddy terror, and some additional fun. Familiarity here acting almost like an inside joke. So, yes. Go see it. Take it for what it is. Is it gonna blow you away? No. Go watch The Shining. But if you’re looking for a good time and a few laughs, giggles and jumps for a couple hours… your resident HorrorGirl says… go check it out.