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Review: The Curse of La Llorona – “A super spooky straight-forward scare-fest”

Written by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis (Five Feet Apart), The Curse of La Llorona is the next instalment in The Conjuring Universe which, apart from The Conjuring 1 and 2, includes The Nun and the Annabelle films. It is the first feature directed by Michael Chaves – who is already earmarked for The Conjuring 3 – and stars Linda Cardellini (Avengers: Endgame), Raymond Cruz (Clear and Present Danger) and Tony Amendola (Annabelle).

In 70s L.A., social worker Anna (Cardellini) is called to the Alavrez home when the boys stop coming to school. Finding them locked in a cupboard by their mother she “rescues” them and takes them into care. The boys are later found drowned and their chief-suspect mother is taken into custody. But the boys have actually fallen victim to 100-year-old Mexican folk boogeyman: La Llorona a.k.a. The Weeping Woman.

A seemingly-unstoppable spectre of a wronged-wife who took instantly-regretted revenge by drowning her own children, The Weeping Woman has now set her sights on Anna’s kids and the family will need all the help they can get from Annabelle’s Father Perez (Amendola) and ex-priest Mexican shaman Rafael (Cruz) to keep the evil at bay.

Linda Cardellini is excellent as Anna. Already straining to balance her caseload and her family, a century-old spiteful spirit now trying to scare the life out of her and drown her little ones is a lot. Cardellini plays her as tough and protecting, frayed-at-the-edges but still fierce and wise. She is easy to identify with and root for and narratively and dramatically does a lot of the film’s heavy lifting so that the movie can just crack on and get to the banshee bashing.

The kids, Chris and Samantha (Roman Christou and Jaynee-Kynne Kinchen), do do blatantly sausage things but kids in horror movies will be kids in horror movies and this makes for some very scary set pieces and very big jump scares that are ably directed by Chaves.

La Llorona is brisk, basic and by the numbers but the shocks come thick and fast and do not let up for the whole film. A prevailing opinion is that jump scares are “cheap” but it takes skill to pull them off and to consistently get you so many times in so many different ways. And sometimes you just want someone to competently scare your pants off.

The chief architect of the pants-off-scaring — La Llorona, herself — is played full-force by Marisol Ramirez (The Rookie). The Weeping Woman is scarier than The Nun and Ramirez’s anger, ferocity and physicality leaves you with no question that she genuinely wants to drown those kids. Luckily they are being protected by one of my new favourite horror characters: Rafael. Rafel is awesome. Played very straight by Raymond Cruz, Rafael is very dry, very sarcastic, very funny and very good at fighting evil. If La Llorona gets a sequel or becomes a franchise he simply must return too.

A super spooky straight-forward scare fest, The Curse of La Llorona is like being stuck on the jumpiest Ghost Train ever for 90 minutes.

The Curse of La Llorona is released in the UK on the 3rd of May.

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