Review: Lame scares in 'The Curse of La Llorona'

Ho-hum, it's another formulaic entry in the 'Conjuring' universe

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Roman Christou, Linda Cardellini and Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen in "The Curse of La Llorona."

There's a curse, alright, in "The Curse of La Llorona," and it has to do with the larger "Conjuring" universe from which it spawns. 

These films — the three "Conjuring" movies, the "Annabelle" films (there's a third one due out this summer), and "The Nun" — are baseline horror outings built on cheap scares involving families in peril.  

The formula for the scares is always the same: there's an anticipated beat, followed by a pause, followed by the actual scare, which is usually accompanied by a soundtrack cue that's like a hissing screech, a piercing scream, a slamming door, a whistling tea kettle and a derailed train smashing into a warehouse full of scrap metal, all at once. And that moment is usually accompanied by the fright face — mouth agape, eyes wide — of whichever supernatural being is haunting that particular movie. 

Here it's La Llorona, a 300-year-old mythic creature who wears a filthy white dress and runny "Exorcist" makeup and attacks children and sometimes parents by grabbing their wrists and leaving burn marks. The rules of La Llorona are never really established: she appears, disappears and reappears at will, and it's not clear how she travels or where she comes from or how she manifests herself in the physical realm. But her presence is always signaled by the aforementioned screech-bang-boom. 

Linda Cardellini, who really deserves better, is Anna Tate-Garcia, a social worker trying to protect her kids from the wrath of Double L. Things pick up with the arrival of Rafael Olvera ("Breaking Bad's" Raymond Cruz), a faith healer who at least brings some humor to the proceedings. Otherwise "La Llorona" is another lame trip down a long, darkened hallway where the anticipation of the scare is always more frightening than the scare itself. 

'The Curse of La Llorona'


Rated R: for violence and terror

Running time: 93 minutes