'The Curse of La Llorona' is a Folktale for Some, Real-Life Terror for Others

But it's totally not a 'Conjuring' spin-off.

The Curse Of La Llorona
Warner Bros. Pictures

The Warner Bros. jump-scare factory cranks out another ghost story designed to goose the ever-hungry horror movie audience. James Wan gets his name slapped on as a producer, but don’t confuse The Curse of La Llorona as having any connections to the Conjuring universe. What we have here is a test-run for director Michael Chaves; a film that allows him to stretch the fright muscles he displayed in his excellent, creepy short The Maiden before Wan plants him behind the director’s chair of The Conjuring 3.

As was the case with several of the supernatural threats in The Conjuring, Annabelle, and The Nun, The Curse of La Llorona is based on real-life reports of a classic folktale terror. The Weeping Woman is a Mexican legend revolving around a young, poor woman named Maria. Her marriage to a nobleman quickly sours, and after giving birth to twins, her husband flees in the night. Years later, in a fit of confused grief for the lost love, she drowns her children in the river and joins them by throwing herself into its depths.

For that sin, she is trapped between worlds and spends eternity wailing her pain into the night. If you happen to hear those cries, it is said that tragedy will befall you. The danger is even more potent for children that cross paths with The Weeping Woman. She may mistake a child for one of her own and drag them to the nearest river for drowning.

As far as spooky folktales go, that’s a pretty good one. The teaser trailer doesn’t bother to go into the history of La Llorona, but movies have always taught us that one should never dismiss the warnings of a priest. This is no bedtime story.

Linda Cardellini has fought her share of wailing spirits (Scooby Doo, The Unsaid) and she’s already protected children from the domestic superhero invasion of Avengers: Age of Ultron. She’s perfect for the baffled mother in-over-her-head. Although, is she the right character/actor to strike against this cultural antagonist? To hopefully avoid the proceedings from becoming too insensitive, Raymond Cruz will guide Cardellini through the Mexican campfire stories.

Can The Weeping Woman compete with killer nuns and rampaging dolls? The ghost seems to be using the usual tricks to strike a chord with its audience. Distant crying, veiled faces, loud bursts of noise. While you’re looking to the left, the raging spirit will jump from the right. Like a lot of these ghosts, La Llorona seems to enjoy pranking her victims before they die, playing with the locks on their station wagon, invisibly rolling down their windows. You know the drill.

If you’re not 100% sold on the above trailer, I will encourage you to check out Chaves’ short film. In less than 10 minutes, The Maiden establishes character, threat, and a fairly successful nightmarish force. Several of those jump-scare tactics are displayed there as well, but like Wan proved in The Conjuring, the craft in which they’re weaved can elevate them beyond cheap tricks.

One thing is certain from The Curse of La Llorona, Michael Chaves will fit right in with the creative voices behind The Conjuring universe. The adventure is a little silly, but you cannot deny the grain of truth supplied by the adherence to folktale. Somewhere in the back of your primitive brain, you can sense the genuine tragedy and reality behind the story.

Trekkie, Not Trekker. Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects, co-host of the In The Mouth of Dorkness Podcast.