While Jordan Peele's Us proved to be an exciting new addition to the horror genre, New Line Cinema's The Curse of La Llorona, a based on the Mexican legend of the Weeping Woman, looks to be an unfortunate step backward. The film crept into theaters this weekend with a dismal 34 percent critics' rating on Rotten Tomatoes -- which to be fair, is higher than the Hellboy reboot -- and has called out for its reliance on jump scares over an exploration of the rich folklore.
It's evident that New Line had high hopes for The Curse of La Llorona to kick-start another franchise within the cinematic universe of The Conjuring. However, it's going to take a lot of praying to break the curse placed upon this film by critics.
The trailers for The Curse of La Llorona are built upon two key elements: plenty of shrieking, courtesy of the Weeping Woman, and an insane amount of jump scares. While both may help with marketing, it's vital that a film manages to be more than its trailer. There needs to be a story, and in this instance, a fleshed out antagonist -- which shouldn't have been difficult given the lore behind La Llorona. Yet, the film sidesteps all of this in favor of kick-starting a potential new franchise for New Line, something critics were quick to note.
Yolanda Machado, The Wrap: "While first-time feature film director Michael Chaves has a great eye for detail, the choice to turn, dare I say, a sacred Latino folklore into a jump-scare monster movie was not the wisest decision. Cinematographer Michael Burgess underscores Chaves’ vision by evoking a truly creepy atmosphere, creating a whole different universe whenever La Llorona appears. However, when the film is viewed in contrast to the actual mythology the legend has maintained for generations upon generations of Latino families, it feels superficial, at best."
Katie Walsh, Los Angeles Times: "Wail as she might, the silly, not-scary The Curse of La Llorona never reaches the operatic heights that the best of the franchise can offer."
Monica Castillo, RogerEbert.com: "The loosely tied latest entry into The Conjuring universe suffers from an anemic script with too little scares and an underappreciation for who would likely be its core audience."
Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects: "Far too often the film follows a basic formula — a noise! a slow search for the source. a surprise! — but while filmmakers like Wan and Mike Flanagan know to pepper it with personality and less traditional scares it’s all we get here. The film also spends far too much time stuck inside Anna’s house. Sure it’s a common factor in haunted house movies, but La Llorona’s entire shtick is snatching up kids left out and unattended at night..."
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "There’s a lot of box-office heat on horror these days — Jordan Peele’s Us has already grossed $236 million worldwide. Still, that’s no excuse for a lazy cash-in like The Curse of La Llorona, which plays too timid for terror and is too lazily constructed to haunt anyone’s dreams."
John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter: "Curse is a ho-hum horror flick that seems highly unlikely to join producer James Wan's earlier projects into thriller-franchise Valhalla..."
Danette Chavez, AV Club: "More fitfully funny than it is frightening, The Curse Of La Llorona might be the first film in the Conjuring universe to remain a standalone. In his attempts to adhere to James Wan’s style, first-time feature director Michael Chaves fills the 93-minute runtime with enough jump scares and things going bump in the night for a whole franchise. But the overuse of these tactics quickly takes the tension out of the proceedings, which are ostensibly inspired by the stories of a wrathful spirit told throughout Latin American and in parts of the United States."
It's worth noting that bad reviews don't mean much if the film pulls through at the box office. And while critics would suggest a curse has been placed on The Curse of La Llorona, it appears the film is still set to potentially top the box office this holiday weekend, unseating Shazam! from the top spot after two weeks. Produced for just $15 million, the film is on track to open with between $19 million and $20 million domestically.
Directed by Michael Chaves, The Curse of La Llorona stars Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velasquez, Marisol Ramirez, Sean Patrick Thomas, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, and newcomer Roman Christou. The film is in theaters now.