Movie Review ~ The Legend of La Llorona

The Facts:

Synopsis: While vacationing in Mexico, a couple discovers their son’s disappearance is tied to a supernatural curse.

Stars: Autumn Reeser, Antonio Cupo, Zamia Fandiño, Danny Trejo, Angélica Lara, Edgar Wuotto, Nicolas Madrazo

Director: Patricia Harris Seeley

Rated: R

Running Length: 98 minutes

TMMM Score: (1/10)

Review: When a film comes out that’s as bad as The Legend of La Llorona (and let’s not beat around the mulberry bush, this is very, very, bad), I try to look for one positive takeaway that will make the experience seem like not a complete wash.  It helps in the overall reflection when looking back at a later date and also assists in the writing of the subsequent review.  The honest truth is that I almost made it to the end of this extremely cheap horror cash-in without finding that small sliver of silver lining I could bring back to you but, thanks to Danny “I Never Say No” Trejo, I nabbed it pretty close to the end.  Are you ready? Here it is: When in doubt, you can shoot a ghost with a shotgun.  I didn’t say it was logical…just a takeaway I wasn’t aware of before the film began.

Apparently filmed in Canada as well as Mexico City where the action takes place, The Legend of La Llorona often looks like the actors are running around a botanical garden that needs a good watering instead of the dark brush where a local legend is said to be hungry for children.  An opening prologue (which oddly lists the production company credits twice) finds a brother and sister being separated from their mother in said botanical garden as they attempt to escape Mexico to the United States but are thwarted by a ghostly apparition of La Llorona, appearing first as extremely questionable CGI vapor and then as a white bedsheet dragged through a shallow body of water.  The bedsheet is pretty tangled up and dirty and from a laundry perspective, that’s terrifying.

Jumping over to numb American couple Carly and Andrew Candlewood (the name is at least one of the more creative decisions in the film) arriving in town to escape their continued grief over the recent loss of their child, they have their other son Danny in tow.  Poor young actor Nicolas Madrazo spends this opening introduction with his head halfway in a barf bag as taxi driver Trejo (Anaconda) cluelessly rambles off a list of stomach-churning local delicacies while the carsick boy upchucks loudly in the backseat.  Not that his parents are paying much attention. Carly (Autumn Reeser, Sully) can only think about the child she lost while Andrew (Antonio Cupo) just wants to know when Carly will be ready to make another baby.  Clearly, this couple needs a vacation to mend what is broken in their relationship, but they’ve chosen the wrong destination to start that process. (Once Madrazo starts acting for real you realize maybe sticking to the vomit pouch is better for him.)

Arriving at a gargantuan estate tended to by Veronica (Angélica Lara, acting circles around the rest of the cast), no one even unpacks before Danny has been lured into the back pond by the ghost of a woman that lived there long ago.  There’s a story to go along with her tragic end but why spoil Lara’s pivotal scene, the only believably conveyed dramatics in the entire picture?  Before long, Danny is missing, having been taken by La Llorona and Carly has to find the strength to take on the lady ghost if she wants her son back.  There’s several unnecessary side plots involving thugs and gangs roaming around which interfere with the core action, only padding what is already too long and too recycled a storyline.

What The Legend of La Llorona struggles with the most is an overall sense of clumsiness and an impression that no one involved, least of all director Patricia Harris Seeley, really believed in the horror film they were making.   Reeser and Cupo are veterans of Canadian-produced holiday films for Hallmark and similarly themed pictures, and it shows in the scenes where they are called to do anything other than cast misty-eyed looks at one another.  Some of the Mexican characters are painted with a broad brush, leaving Trejo to get locked and loaded with shifting allegiances that lead to his aforementioned target practice with La Llorona.  This scene is fairly hysterical because it just looks like we’re watching Trejo play a video game, every time he “hits” the “ghost” the specter gives a ghoulish grimace and disappears.  I kept expecting to see +100 appear in the sky somewhere.

Ever since the success of The Conjuring spin-off The Curse of La Llorona and then the 2019 film La Llorona from Guatemala which very nearly landed an Oscar nomination for Best International Feature, cheap-o productions featuring the figure from Latin American folklore have been popping left and right.  All are aiming for the easy scare with nothing to back them up from an emotional storytelling point of view and The Legend of La Llorona is no different.  Brandishing the kind of fake-out marketing which will most likely trick a number of viewers into a watch, it’s a shame this one didn’t have more performances like Lara as the housekeeper.  It’s not a perfectly formed creation but it’s filled out with the right amount of paranoia that would accompany a town haunted by a legend that couldn’t be real…or could it?

The Silver Bullet ~ The Book of Life

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Synopsis: Manolo, a young man who is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart, embarks on an adventure that spans three fantastical worlds where he must face his greatest fears.

Release Date: October 17, 2014

Thoughts: While watching the dazzling trailer for October’s The Book of Life, my first thought was more of a concern: that my eyes were going to pop out of my head from the array of colors and textures blazing by at a rapid pace. Producer Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim) is known for his attention to detail in thoughtful stories with underlying themes that reveal themselves slowly so I’m quite interested to see what new ground The Book of Life will break. While I’m not as averse to 3D as some of my contemporaries, I think it has proved to be best used in the type of rich animation The Book of Life employs. With the voices of Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy), Channing Tatum (22 Jump Street), Ice Cube (Ride Along), and Diego Luna (Elysium) the film reminds me of The Nightmare Before Christmas, ParaNorman, and Coraline.

The Silver Bullet ~ Machete Kills

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Synopsis: The U.S. government recruits Machete to battle his way through Mexico in order to take down an arms dealer who looks to launch a weapon into space

Release Date:  September 13, 2013

Thoughts: Though 2010’s Machete was far from a blockbuster, director Robert Rodriguez is bringing the character back that was first introduced in a faux trailer attached to his Grindhouse collaboration with Quentin Tarantino.  I found the first film to be typical Rodriguez: messy, over-the-top, and exactly the kind of film that it was advertised to be.  This sequel looks to be more of the same with craggy faced Danny Trejo being surrounded by busty babes (including Sofia Vergara, Amber Heard, and Lady Gaga in her film debut) and lots and lots of weapons of physical destruction.  Its grimy feel fits right into the throwback movement that Rodriguez and Tarantino have such an affinity for so expect another small win for the loopy duo.