THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA (2019) boasts creepy imagery and stunning camera-work

Anyone who calls this movie ‘The Curse of the Weeping Woman’ is wrong… that’s a bad title… The Curse of La Llorona is the only way to go. Period.

The film follows a single mother and her two kids who are thrown into the world of supernatural presences when her family becomes marked by the Latin American folklore legend known as La Llorona. But, as you’ll see, there’s a lot more to this story you may not already know.

When it was announced that the director of this film, Michael Chaves, had been handed the reins of The Conjuring 3 after just making his directorial debut it made me wonder what it was that impressed James Wan so much. Now I know. The Curse of La Llorona is a top horror film with strong performances, refined cinematography, and a consistent run of genuine scares all well put together by Chaves. The story itself and the general premise is remarkably simple. It’s nothing too complex and nothing particularly new but, with everything else he brings to the table, Chaves makes the film really stand out.

Michael Burgess‘s cinematography is great throughout this entire film. There are so many shots where I just had to take a step back and admire the framing for all of its beauty. The framing is fantastic in terms of setting up scares and eerie moments, but it it also great when it comes to the average establishing, medium, and long shot. There are a number of lengthy tracking shots that follow characters as they navigate through a house, and they’re stunning to watch. The use of no-cut tracking shots is a great way to build tension that something is going to happen, and even if something doesn’t happen it makes for a successfully tension-filled sequence.

There’s even a single shot in here that is a very obvious homage to the classic deadite POV shots used by Sam Raimi in his Evil Dead trilogy. Most people will miss it as it goes by in a couple of seconds but it’s a genius inclusion that links back to one of the greatest horror films of all time.

Chaves does something with the horror here that has me very excited for The Conjuring 3 even without Wan at the helm. Typically, the scares in a horror film build from nothing. You get a major scare or two in the beginning and then it slowly builds and builds until it goes crazy in the third act. Chaves doesn’t go that route, instead, this film is very eventful from the beginning. It doesn’t take long before shit starts hitting the fan and it holds that level if tension the whole way through. It shocked me. It may have been 30 minutes in and I was thinking we were leading into the third act climax. I loved it. It’s consistent with the scares as there aren’t any long periods of time without an effective fright.

The horror is very diverse too; you have some of the more ‘classic scares’ you may have seen before, but there is a lot of time dedicated to purely creepy imagery where the presence of something in the frame is enough to terrify you. The great thing is, no matter which of the above you get, it’s all effective. It gets a bit wonky towards the end as the scares start packing together a little too tight and it rushes to a conclusion, but it’s still very entertaining. Only a couple of the scares don’t work, although, compared to the plethora that are successful, it’s hardly an issue.

Another reason why this film works so well… Linda Cardellini. Her performance as Anna, the mother in the story, is brilliant. She is a top-tier actress and it shows here as she is great in every single scene. The desperation, terror, fear and trauma felt by her character and those around her is all channeled through her performance and she nails it. Raymond Cruz is really strong in a supporting role as Rafael who helps out Anna. Other than the two of them, the rest of the performances are good, no complaints there. There is a familiar face or two that shows up at one point that most modern horror fans (and casual movie-goers) will absolutely recognise.

In the end, there are a few key reasons as to why you should definitely check out The Curse of La Llorona, and I will list them very simply for you below, the third may or may not shock you.

  1. The horror sequences and scares directed by Michael Chaves are genuinely terrifying.
  2. The cinematography and camera-work from Michael Burgess is stunning throughout.
  3. If you want to be caught up on the ENTIRE Conjuring universe… you’re going to need to add this one to the list. There may be a not-so-sneaky connection.

8/10

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