de facto film reviews 2.5 stars

For anyone who may be getting tired of the interconnected nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there is one franchise that doesn’t waist its time assuming you’re all caught up with the larger story. That would be The Conjuring Universe, which has dominated the world of horror for almost six years at this point. What this universe does better than any other is keeping all of their films standalone ventures. You don’t have to watch one film to get the others. Even the two main Conjuring films can be watched in any order, and you won’t be left in the dust.

Now we take a step deeper into the sections of the universe completely separate from the cases of Ed and Lorraine Warren, as we take a look into a side opened up by the first Annabelle film. This time, we focus on a popular legend in Mexican folklore known as La Llorona, or The Weeping Woman. According to the legend, La Llorona was a woman who drowned her children in a river in a jealous rage. After realizing what she had done, she drowned herself in the same river. Her cursed spirit now roams the Earth in search of children to take their place.

In 1973 Los Angeles, the vengeful spirit has set her sights on Anna Garcia (Linda Cardellini), a social worker who lives the single mother life with her two kids, Chris (Roman Christou) and Samantha (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen). When the subject of her latest case, a disturbed woman named Patricia (Patricia Velásquez), is accused of drowning her two sons in the Los Angeles river, Anna suspects she is merely mentally ill, especially when she claims it was La Llorona who drowned them.

However, it’s not long after this crime that Chris and Sam begin seeing a strange woman appearing around their home. Anna begins to suspect that Patricia’s rantings about the spirit may not be as crazy as she thought, and is horrified to learn that her kids have become La Llorona’s next targets. With the help of a man named Rafael (Raymond Cruz), Anna must fight La Llorona to stop her from claiming her kids as her own.

It’s story may not take full advantage of its well-known subject matter, and it may not take The Conjuring’s formula in many new directions, but it’s hard to deny one thing: it has some truly terrifying moments. It’s setting and tone are also a welcome change of pace, channeling a more Latino-centric atmosphere that gives The Conjuring Universe a new angle to explore. It also has a bit more action and humor not found in the franchise, but they feel like long-awaited additions to its development.

The performances are a true highlight of this film, especially Cardellini. Having done a fair amount of comedy and drama, it’s interesting to see her take the reins of a horror film. For the character of Anna Garcia, she seemed perfectly cast for it. It feels like no one else could have played the character. In this reviewer’s opinion, she gave one of the best performances of her career, giving off the true emotion needed for each terrifying scene.

Warner Bros. deserves credit for finding directors who really know how to build suspense and execute scares for these movies. This especially goes for debuting director Michael Chaves, who’s use of set pieces and clever camera angles consistently led to some really good jolts in the end. Sure most of this film is jump scares, but they can be good if they do the one thing they were designed to do: scare you.

Adding to the terrifying atmosphere of this film is the design of La Llorona herself. Her demonic look is very akin to the design of Valek the demonic nun, who is still the most terrifying character in The Conjuring Universe. One scene in which Anna comes face-to-face with the spirit is fully terrifying with La Llorona staring into the camera with her demonic eyes and pale, screaming face. It induces true chills that remain long after the scene has ended.

The Curse of La Llorona doesn’t really take its story in any unique directions, but as a film in the ever expanding Conjuring Universe, it’s still an entertaining, and often very terrifying, time at the movies. It uses its set pieces to its advantage to create some truly bone chilling moments and scares that make you jump out of your seat, and showcases one of the best performances from Linda Cardellini. With Chaves now taking over The Conjuring 3 from James Wan, it’s safe to say that the film is in good hands.