For those who come from places familiar with the folklore, The Curse of La Llorona, the newest entry from the Annabelle microcosm of films—such as The Nun and The Conjuring—have probably felt irritated by the thought of a Hollywood take on the age-old tale. And these people are right, because it's a pretty terrible movie if we're being generous, and a lousy example of appropriation if we're being honest.
Freaks & Geeks alum Linda Cardellini is Anna, a social worker-slash-mom whose cop husband, a Hispanic man we're told, died before the events of the film. Life is hard, raising kids alone is tough; Anna gets the briefest expositional moments before it's off to take kids away from a poor Mexican mother because she locked them in a closet "to keep them safe." Really, we know she's hiding them from being Llorona'd. But when those kids wind up in the social care system and subsequently disappear, Anna's own brood wind up stalked by the ghostly remains of a once-beautiful woman who, years ago, in a fit of jealous rage, drowned her children and now ghosts around drowning other kids so they can somehow take their place. She's La Llorona, dammit.
Anna sets about confronting the spirit with the help of a defrocked priest-slash-curandero (Raymond Cruz of Breaking Bad), but La Llorona is more powerful than they can imagine, so jump scares occur, close calls go down and the music swells suddenly while the ghost tries to drown everybody. It's horror, y'know? You basically know the gist. In the beginning, glimpses of the ghost are pretty scary, but once we've seen her a few times and the law of diminishing returns kicks in, it really becomes a game of running down the clock.
And this would all be acceptable in that horror movies are often not so great, but La Llorona centers the story on white folks (not counting the kids, because don't forget that the dead dad was Hispanic—but even they take a backseat to the mom's frantic actions despite being the targets of attempted ghost murder). There are certainly other Hispanic cast members, but they're relegated to plot devices with shitty motives and deus ex machina which, frankly, is tiresome and problematic. Cardellini does have her moments, particularly in how she might be the first actor ever to deliver a believable onscreen scream, but after she leaves the kids alone one too many times, we start to wonder if she even really wants to help them and we start to wonder if we even care.
Spoiler alert: we don't.
+Folklore is objectively cool
-Why do they keep leaving the kids in other rooms?
The Curse of La Llorona
Directed by Michael Chaves
With Cardellini and Cruz
Violet Crown, Regal, R, 93 min.