Movies

Now showing in Taos: 'The Curse of La Llorona'

Great opportunity for classic horror marred by standard Hollywood approach

By Rick Romancito
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 4/21/19

It's no joke. A lot people still believe in La Llorona, the wailing woman said to haunt the streams and acequias searching for the souls of children to replace her own that she herself drowned.

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Movies

Now showing in Taos: 'The Curse of La Llorona'

Great opportunity for classic horror marred by standard Hollywood approach

Posted

It's no joke. A lot people still believe in La Llorona, the wailing woman said to haunt the streams and acequias searching for the souls of children to replace her own that she herself drowned.

It's a horrifying thought, of course, which is why she has been used as an effective warning to stay away from these neighborhood waterways.

Even sadder is that some real life incidents in recent years have lent credence to the legend whether by way of poverty and ignorance, mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse, or that one definition that still sends chills down one's spine — the undefined, intangible curse.

Which leads us to the just-released movie, "The Curse of La Llorona." It stars Linda Cardellini as a child welfare agency worker named Anna Tate-Garcia in 1970s Los Angeles who crosses paths with a Hispanic woman with serious family problems.

Anna’s late husband was a police officer who left her with two kids to raise, Samantha (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) and Chris (Roman Christou). Anna’s job requires her to enter the lives of many families dealing with everything from neglect to outright endangerment. One day she is called to the home of one of her former clients where police say she has barracaded herself inside with her kids. This woman, Patricia Alvarez (Patricia Velasquez), has placed candles everywhere inside and has her kids seemingly trapped in a closet with arcane symbols painted on the door.

But, things are not as they appear. When a tragedy unfolds later on we find that Patricia and her kids actually were beset by a haunting, not mental illness, and it is one that has transferred to Anna and her own children.

Because director Michael Chaves has placed this story within an urban setting, he bows to the need for an explanation of where La Llorona came from and how it has become so deeply imbedded in Hispanic folklore. He provides it in a prologue showing how, in 1673 Mexico, a child witnesses his mother drowning his brother in a nearby stream. In comments later delivered by a Catholic priest — who happens to be Father Pérez (Tony Amendola) from the “Annabelle” movie — we find out that the woman was spurned by her lover and killed their children in revenge. Now, she has become a demonic spirit that haunts Anna exactly 300 years later.

For help, Anna turns to a man named Rafael Olvera (Raymond Cruz, who played Tuco Salamanca in “Breaking Bad”), a curandero who knows how to deal with La Llorona hauntings. Cruz is the one bright spot in an otherwise by-the-numbers script, but his role is hampered by the director’s urgency to inject jump-scares at every opportunity. We’d like to see Cruz in more lead roles; he certainly has the screen presence to handle them.

The hardest thing to deal with in the movie is not the hamfisted Hollywood handling — if it’s 1973, why no reference to the burgeoning Chicano culture movement in L.A.? But, there is a hugely missed opportunity to make something really interesting and maybe even classic. This is a piece of history and culture that deserves a subtler treatment, something along the lines of Japanese horror cinema in which the eeriness and horror emerge from the undefined and intangible. But, no, mostly we get a figure with a scary face leaping into the camera so we don’t have a chance to ask such questions.

Tempo grade: C-

“The Curse of La Llorona” is rated R for violence and terror.

It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Also showing in Taos

Breakthrough

MPAA rating: PG for thematic content including peril.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres

This from director Roxann Dawson is based on the inspirational true story of one mother’s unfaltering love in the face of impossible odds.

When Joyce Smith’s (Chrissy Metz of TV’s “This is Us”) adopted son John (Marcel Ruiz) falls through an icy Missouri lake, all hope seems lost. But as John lies lifeless, Joyce refuses to give up. Her steadfast belief inspires those around her to continue to pray for John’s recovery, even in the face of every case history and scientific prediction.

Based on Joyce Smith’s book of the same name, this is described as an enthralling reminder that faith and love can create a mountain of hope, and sometimes even a miracle.

It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Notice: There are no Movies at the TCA this week due to a film festival and dance performances. The next Movie on the Big Screen is “Rafiki,” which will screen beginning April 28.

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