Tuesday, 23 April 2019

The Curse Of La Lllorona

La Llo Land

The Curse Of La Lllorona
2019 USA Directed by Michael Chaves
UK cinema release print.

There came a point in The Curse Of La Llorona, which I saw a couple of weeks early due to a preview screening in my home town, where I saw one of the actors playing a priest and thought to myself, he always plays this kind of role. Well, when the actor, Tony Amendola, returns a little later on in the film he brings with him a reference cameo of an iconic figure from four other films and it made me realise, Amendola was playing exactly the same character he played in one of those movies. That is to say, although it’s a small cameo from a demon haunted artefact and, specifically for this other object, totally in flash back, it’s made quite clear that this film is firmly part of The Conjuring universe.  Specifically, if peripherally in this case, linked in to The Conjuring (reviewed here), The Conjuring 2 - The Enfield Case (reviewed here), Annabelle (reviewed here), Annabelle Creation (reviewed here) and The Nun (reviewed here).

So, given the track record of these previous linked movies (the only one I didn’t like too well was the first Annabelle stand alone), it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise to find that this new movie is actually pretty well put together. I mean, yes it’s very clichéd and there’s nothing that’s really going to take you by surprise... story wise at least, it has the occasional okay jump scare... but this is one of those films where the timing of the scares and build ups to those with all the creeping dread going full on is actually handled pretty effectively.

There’s some nice photography in this including, after the initial plot set up, a really amazing, high speed moving camera powerhouse of a shot introducing the main protagonist of the film, played by the wonderful Linda Cardellini (who played my favourite character in Avengers - Age Of Ultron) as she gets her daughter and son ready for school. It’s a frenetically paced shot and it must have been well rehearsed to get everybody caught at various points in the sequence with the right timing and I really appreciated it. There’s a lot of smooth movement and a lot of static shot sequences filling the screen at various points. Alas, there is quite a lot of telegraphing via the camerawork in the film also... you kind of know that, when things shift into hand held territory (and when there’s a different, almost inaudible background bass ambient sound suddenly faded onto the foley), something pretty scary is about to happen. But, like I said, it’s all done very competently and works pretty well for what it’s supposed to be achieving.

I mentioned the children in that last paragraph as this is what the film focusses on as the objective of the supernatural entity known as La Llorona, who comes from a Mexican folktale and is apparently pretty well known outside of the story elements of this movie. A weeping woman who comes after the children to help replace or make amends for her own two children, who she drowned in an act of jealousy centuries ago. She also, in this version of the myth and, obviously, to make the film both more exciting and to give story follow through on certain dramatic elements of the plot, burns your flesh when she touches you.

The set up of this one is that, once she has taken the children of Cardellini’s neighbour, played here by beautiful model and actress Patricia Velasquez (you may remember her as Anck Su Namun in The Mummy movies), in an uncharacteristically unglamorous role, La Llorona turns her attention to Cardellini’s children, for reasons which I won’t spoil here but, there’s a definitive story beat revealed much later in the film as to why this is happening to her children specifically. We also have another cliché of a character in the outsider shamen who turned his back on the church who can help exorcise La Llorona using his ‘questionable methods’, played here with much charisma (in a kind of negative charisma kind of way) by Raymond Cruz. I actually liked this character so much that I’m now hoping he will return in one of the other Conjuring related movies at some point but, I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

The other big star of the movie is, of course, Joseph Bishara’s fantastic score which hits all the usual, atonally distressed horror points you would want in such a movie. It provides a good deal of the jittery atmosphere during the key scare sequences and I’m looking forward to hearing this in isolation away from the film (thanks to the powers that be for putting this one out on CD, even if you can only get it as an ‘on demand’ CD from American Amazon... still keeping my fingers crossed we’ll get a CD release for Insidious - The Last Key at some point).

And that’s... a very short review but there’s not much more to say other than The Curse Of La Llorona utilises the usual camera tricks of things seen at the periphery of the screen to make it more frightening so... yeah, that modus operandi is still very much in practice here. One thing I might add would be that the special effects are quite well done and, in this case, the inevitable demise of the demonic presence is, actually, quite spectacular (it would be true to say that she gets a bit cross) and, in a way, harkens back to the old days when Hammer Horror were churning out Dracula movies. So, yeah, not much else to add other than... it’s a solid, modern horror movie which will best be enjoyed by fans of the same. Looks and sounds pretty good with some believable performances from all involved. Go take a look if this genre is your thing.

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