The latest installment in the long-running The Conjuring Universe aims to tell a different type of horror story – one rooted in the Mexican folklore of La Llorona, to unfortunately stale results.

In 1970s Los Angeles, the legendary ghost La Llorona is stalking the night — and the children. Ignoring the eerie warning of a troubled mother, a social worker and her own kids are drawn into a frightening supernatural realm. Their only hope of surviving La Llorona’s deadly wrath is a disillusioned priest who practices mysticism to keep evil at bay.

Linda Cardellini as Anna Tate-Garcia in The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

When it comes to The Conjuring Universe, I actually enjoy nearly every single entry in the franchise thus far, with my personal favorite so far being 2016’s The Conjuring 2. The only one I did not like was Annabelle, which served as a prequel to the original Conjuring film that took critics and audiences by surprise due to it being legitimately scary.

The marketing for The Curse of La Llorona made the strange decision to not inform any of its potential viewers that it is a film set in this universe up until the week of release. However, not even the fact that the film is set in this creepy universe can save it from being an unfortunately bland and forgettable horror experience.

By far the biggest flaw with La Llorona is that it does not know how to scare its audience in an effective way. My overall favorite genre of film is horror – if a filmmaker can show me something that genuinely gets under my skin and freaks me out, I am all for it. The way to do this is not from jump scares however, which is the only thing this film does in an effort to scare the audience.

There is a drastic difference between being startled and being scared. Being startled is being taken off guard by something and maybe jumping back a little bit. Being scared is feeling actual fear. Feeling as if you may actually be in danger, or a sense of uneasiness. Hereditary was a film that to me, was truthfully scary. It is a film that understands how to disturb its viewers, and I wish that La Llorona would have also had that same sense of understanding, but it just does not.

Linda Cardellini as Anna Tate-Garcia in The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

Additionally, the cinematography is glum and bland. I honestly cannot think of a single frame of the film that stood out to me as looking beautiful. The film utilizes a ton of grey and black color schemes and, while I can understand the reason why they perhaps chose to do this, it just ended up making the overall picture look and feel stale.

Another thing about La Llorona that is quite sad is how it ultimately becomes a generic home invasion thriller with a paranormal spirit by the time the second act takes in. There is only so much a filmmaker can do when you are confined to one small house, and sadly, this feature never does anything clever or exciting with its location. The Purge suffered from the same fate – a film that could have been absolutely astounding had it used its interesting premise to its advantage and had it take place in multiple settings, but it instead chose to focus on one family in their household.

If there is one plus to the picture, it is by far the acting, namely from Linda Cardellini who portrays lead protagonist Anna Tate-Garcia. There are quite a few scenes where she has to show true genuine fear on her face, and she does an exceptional job at doing so consistently throughout the running time.

The Curse of La Llorona is a bland and unoriginal horror story that often resorts to cheap jump scares and suffers from a weak story.

Overall Grade: D+

MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence and terror

Cast: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez

Directed by: Michael Chaves

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Running Time: 93 minutes

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