Story by Esperanza Garcia, Reporter
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Last year, when it was announced that a film would be made based on the iconic Mexican urban legend “La Llorona,” I got excited. Part of this was because I’m an avid fan of horror films. Another part of this was because I have always advocated for the urban legend that terrified me as a child, and even sometimes now as a 20-year-old, to get the big-screen treatment. In other words, I was really excited for the film.
When the trailer came out, my excitement died off rather quickly. I won’t say why that is, unpacking all of that would require another article, but I will admit that it pushed me away from keeping its release date in mind. However, in the spirit of Halloween, and sheer curiosity, I rented it.
I really wanted to be wrong about the film. I really wanted to be able to watch it, enjoy it and say that it kept me up at night. Unfortunately, I am not here to lie.
The film takes place in Los Angeles, although the legend, through generations, has taken place in Mexico. It is centered around a white single mom, Anna, who is a social worker, and her two Mexican-American kids. Her husband, who was Mexican, was killed in the line of duty as a police officer. While investigating the case of another single mother, Patricia, who locked her children in a closet because she was sure that La Llorona was out to get her children, Anna gets Patricia’s children killed and her own kids involved. This all leads to the plot climax of Patricia making a deal with La Llorona for her to take Anna’s kids, and give back Patricia’s.
While the plot described above doesn’t read as completely unbearable, it’s definitely not enough for the film’s 93-minute run.
The plot, besides essentially being about non-white Mexican women terrorizing a white woman, has no substance. Unless you already know about the urban legend and are comparing the film to the stories and testimonies of people swearing up and down that they saw La Llorona, there is absolutely nothing to think about while this film is running. The only thing left for the audience are jump scares. There isn’t any build-up to the jump scares, so it’s not like you’re going to be at the edge of your seat waiting for one to happen, and when the jump scares do happen, they just don’t have the impact one would want from a horror film. They stay with you for a solid second, and then you can move on with the film as if they never happened.
There is also a moment in the film where La Llorona’s existence is connected to the Conjuring Cinematic Universe (CCU) through a reference to the movie “Annabelle,” which made me lose focus of what was going on. It just led me to have more questions. Did Ed and Lorraine Warren also investigate La Llorona? Do La Llorona and Bathsheba have tea parties? Are the involvement of the “Conjuring” and “Annabelle” films the reason this film is so bad?
If I were to rate this on a five-star Letterboxd scale, I would give it a rating of one and a half, with a one-word review of “humiliating.” Even that would be generous. As a horror film fan, this film is embarrassing to the genre, and as a Mexican-American, this film is even more embarrassing to my culture. To see an urban legend known for scaring children and adults out of their wits be reduced to simple jump scares is saddening and makes me thankful that people don’t bother knowing more than one urban legend from a culture that isn’t theirs—that way no other Mexican legend is given the same treatment.