Fresh off Five Feet Apart, writers Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis take a left turn down a darker street and bring us a modern encounter with The Weeping Woman from Mexican folklore in The Curse of La Llorona, directed by Michael Chaves (Chase Champion). Unfortunately, the script is thin, dated, and unoriginal.
In 1973, Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini) is a widow and raising two children alone while working for Child Protective Services. When she receives a call to investigate two brothers who have been truant, she inadvertently becomes entangled with a supernatural force bent on stealing her children. She seeks the assistance of Father Perez (Tony Amendola), who ultimately refers her to the defrocked priest Rafael Olvera (Raymond Cruz). It is only with the latter's help that Anna has any chance of saving her children, or even herself.
Most of what this film offers, has been done before, and better. The script, set in 1973, seems like it was written then as well. For the first half, the horror relies exclusively on shock-scares rather than delving into any real creeping terror. The second half improves somewhat, but the dialogue appears forced and is unintentionally amusing in certain places. This helps give it a feeling of having a decades-old script.
The cast works with what they have, but the script makes it difficult to tell whether their performances or the direction they received is lacking. Cardellini wavers a bit in her role, while most everyone else seems to be taking themselves a bit too seriously. There is one exception to this. Young Roman Christou, in his acting debut, demonstrates fine ability, and if he chooses to continue his career, we are likely to see much more of him.
The visual effects are finely done, lending the film its only truly creepy element, but the sound effects are loud and often shocking in a way that has nothing to do with horror. The makeup effects were, like the script, dated and a repeat of things we have seen before - like some warped child of The Exorcist's Regan or the girl from The Ring. As with the visual effects, the cinematography, combined with the lighting, are positive elements, particularly in the scenes at Anna's Victorian home.
The Curse of La Llorona is a dull film based on folklore, and it could have provided a much richer and better outcome than the presented story. The scares are faint unless you're a fan of carnival haunted houses, and the biggest curse here is the time and money poorly spent.