A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Curse of La Llorona is a supernatural horror movie that's connected to the Conjuring universe. It has a lot of spooky scenes and jump scares; children are in peril, and some die. A ghost grabs kids' arms and leaves painful-looking burn marks. A boy falls down the stairs and sprains an arm, and a girl is nearly drowned in a tub. A gun is fired; a man is hit in the shoulder, and some blood is shown. Characters grapple with and attack each other, and the ghost is stabbed with a wooden cross. Language is infrequent but includes a use of "s--t." Adults drink wine in one scene; in a comical moment, a woman glugs the rest of the bottle into her glass. The movie is well-made but perhaps not very memorable; the characters are likable, but the ghost could have been more culturally interesting, rather than appropriated and used as just another movie ghoul.
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What's the story?
In THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA, it's the early 1970s in Los Angeles. Busy social worker/widowed mother of two Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini) learns that one of her cases, Patricia (Patricia Velásquez), has locked her own two boys in a closet. Over Patricia's protests, Anna unlocks the door and lets them out. She finds burn marks on the boys' arms, but they insist that their mother didn't do it. Before long, Anna's own children, Samantha (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) and Chris (Roman Christou), start hearing weeping sounds and have their own arms marked by a ghostly figure: La Llorona. A priest (Tony Amendola) sends Anna and her kids to Rafael Olvera (Raymond Cruz), a former priest who now deals in mystic arts, for help. Can they stop the malevolent ghost from taking Anna's children?
Is it any good?
Though it certainly could have been scarier and made better use of its premise, this film is still an accomplished, skillful effort in terms of its crisp, fluid look and spooky sound design. The feature directing debut of Michael Chaves, The Curse of La Llorona is the sixth entry in the Conjuring universe. It effectively copies the directing style of James Wan (The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2), who serves as a producer here. And while La Llorona often feels like a copy, it's undeniably more effective than many other choppy, shaky-cam horror movies. The traveling Steadicam work, the lengthy shots, the establishing of three-dimensional space, and the sharp editing all contribute to a strong moodiness.
The creepily quiet sound design is enhanced by Joseph Bishara's score. But overall the movie feels somewhat bloodless and not particularly edgy; it's more like watching a classic haunted-house movie than anything fresh or startling. It's a shame that the La Llorona legend wasn't used in a more interesting way, shedding light on what she means to specific cultures, rather than appropriating her and turning her into just another standard-issue movie ghost. But the movie's humans, especially the immensely likable Cardellini, cool-as-ice Cruz (Tuco from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul), and quietly consoling Amendola, who explains the legend, help make The Curse of La Llorona a decently watchable experience.
Talk to your kids about ...
How scary is the movie? What's the appeal of horror movies?
How does the movie fit into the Conjuring universe? How does this universe work, overall, as a cinematic experience?
What did you learn about the legend of La Llorona? Did you wish you could learn more? Did it inspire you to do further research?
Is Anna an admirable female character? Is she a role model?
- In theaters: April 19, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: August 6, 2019
- Cast: Linda Cardellini, Patricia Velasquez, Raymond Cruz
- Director: Michael Chaves
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence and terror
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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