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The 400-Word Review: The Curse of La Llorona

The latest chapter in the Conjuring franchise concerns a sinister spirit from folklore.

Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

The bad news: “The Curse of La Llorona” isn’t very good.

The sixth entry in the film series spun off from “The Conjuring” (though the first to feature this particular ghoul), “La Llorona” is a chain of jump scares and nothing more. We meet a malevolent ghost, then we spend 90 minutes watching her appear behind this door or around that corner. Each such spectral imposition is accompanied by a sound that is utterly meaningless; not strings, not screams, just weaponized white noise.

Anna (Linda Cardellini), an earnest social worker, runs into a paranoid single mother (Patricia Velásquez) who has locked her children in a closet to protect them from an invisible threat. When the kids are brought to foster care, they don’t make it one night before they’re mysteriously killed; it appears they were victims of La Llorona (Marisol Ramirez), a sinister spirit who’s been snatching unfortunate children for centuries. Having dispatched her latest victims, La Llorona moves on to Anna — a single mother herself — and her two young children.

It’s cookie-cutter stuff, with the source material used as an excuse to deploy another generic beastie — as usual, depicted with as a grey-faced, big-mouthed, fast-moving woman. The rote direction, from first-timer Michael Chaves, does “La Llorona” no favors; a script that changes the rules from one scene to the next buries it.

The worse news: I can’t get past the phenomenally bad timing of a movie about a Mexican ghost invading a home to terrorize a white woman.

You could make an argument, if you were so inclined, that dramatizing a well-known Mexican folk tale — and doing so with several Latinx performers — is a net good for representation, bringing a relatable bit of folk culture to a wider audience. At other times, that would probably be the sum total of the social resonance for “La Llorona.”

In early 2019, however, the United States is suffering through a period of widespread scaremongering about imaginary threats from immigrants at the southern border. Certain leaders spend each day stoking paranoia (and currying favor at the polls) by insisting that asylum-seekers from Central America are monsters in disguise. The optics of an entertainment that sadly echoes those claims — even if inadvertently, though doing so accidentally would hardly be better — are terrible. “La Llorona” should’ve been shelved for a few years — or not released at all.

My Rating: 2/10

"The Curse of La Llorona" opens Friday, April 19, in wide release.

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