EXPECTATIONS: A formulaic and cookie-cutter entry in The Conjuring Universe.
REVIEW: In the current film horror landscape, mainstream horror has been led by Australian filmmaker James Wan, ever since he made the Insidious film entries. Since then, he has shepherded The Conjuring Universe (Yes, there is a such a thing), which has gone on to make five films, which are all financially successful, if variably different in terms of critical acclaim.
On the positive front, we have the first two Conjuring films (2013, 2016) and 2017’s Annabelle: Creation; the former two garnering critical acclaim and the latter being an improvement over the original film. On the negative front we have the first Annabelle film (2014) and most recently, 2018’s The Nun; both critically reviled films in accordance to both critics and audiences.
Now we have the sixth entry to the universe, Michael Chaves‘ The Curse of the Weeping Woman (also known as The Curse of La Llorona). Backed up with an intriguing mythology and a talented cast led by Linda Cardellini, will the film have a shot of being another acclaimed hit for The Conjuring Universe?
Set in 1970s Los Angeles, we follow the story of Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini), a social worker and single mother of two children, who has been struggling to make ends meet due to the recent passing of her husband, David. Being called onto a suspicious case, she finds, what she assumes, to be signs of foul play.
As she digs deeper, she finds striking similarities between the case and the terrifying supernatural occurrences haunting her family. Through thorough investigations, she discovers that La Llorona has latched herself onto Anna and will stop at nothing to take her children. Anna turns to mysticism with the help of a disillusioned priest (Raymond Cruz) to fight the evil entity.
Does The Curse of the Weeping Woman succeed as a fright-fest? Unfortunately, it doesn’t. While it is not as boring or badly acted as Annabelle nor is it tonally misguided to the point of parody as The Nun, the film adheres to formula way too much to be nothing more than a middling and unremarkable entry in The Conjuring Universe.
As for the positives, the acting is fine, with refreshing screen presences by Linda Cardellini, Patricia Velasquez and Raymond Cruz, who are finally given sizable roles (if not memorable characterizations) that closer match their talents. The casting of Cardellini is rather odd, considering how predominant the mythology is in Latin American culture and it would have been interesting if that type of racial difference factored into the story, but it never does.
This leads to the leaden script by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis (who have also written 2019’s Five Feet Apart), which explores very little to nothing about the fascinating mythology of La Llorona, rendering the villain to be nothing more than a boring antagonist whose scariest feature is the loud noises that accompany her. The lack of distinctive make-up and innovations in the execution of the scares certainly don’t help.
Since the script is almost wafer-thin in its exploration of the mythology, does it make up for that deficit with strong characterizations? No, it definitely doesn’t, which lets down the actors, resulting with people whom audiences couldn’t possibly care about. If the audience doesn’t care about the characters, the scares (however effective or LOUD they are) are dulled down.
If the characterizations were stronger, the script and character decisions written would have made them all superfluous. A murderous ghostly spirit is snatching up children in the night and drowning them, and yet you would leave your children unattended while she you chat to someone several rooms away. That definitely sounds like a plausible decision from a responsible mother(!).
You and your children have been told that you have the only thing keeping the Weeping Woman out, and that is a loose line of seeds at the door. And rationally, one of the kids would ignore the warning and disturb the boundary in pursuit of a toy. Again, another plausible decision(!). The audience reaction to this scene will be uproarious with frustration and anger, guaranteed.
It is also frustrating that with such a MO that La Llorona has (which is to kidnap kids unattended at night) and when the film clearly states that told that it’s not the house that’s haunted, the best the writers and filmmakers can come up with is to create most of the setpieces in the house.
It is the lack of creativity and innovation that kills the film stone dead. The Curse of the Weeping Woman is just another formulaic, dull horror entry in The Conjuring Universe and it is ample evidence that filmmakers need to change up the formula and fast, before it dries out like an exhumed corpse.
This review can be also seen at IMPULSE GAMER. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.
Cast: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velasquez, Marisol Ramirez, Sean Patrick Thomas, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Roman Christou
Director: Michael Chaves
Screenwriters: Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis