Monday, April 22

The Curse of La Llorona Review

The Curse of La Llorona

Dir: Michael Chaves

Starring: Linda Cardellini, Sean Patrick Thomas, Tony Amendola, Roman Christou, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, and Raymond Cruz

Who remembers bed time stories? Tales about knights fighting dragons, magic lamps that provide three wishes, and adventures into magical kingdoms with giant people. Within all these fables are happy endings, romantic moments, but also hints of dangerous creatures, evil witches, and spooky boogeymen. 

For some children, the naughty and disrespectful kind, these bed time stories can serve as a warning, a cautionary tale for young people to make better decisions, to obey their elders, or to abide by the rules. These monsters are created and exist in different shapes and forms familiar to the environment, their legend grows greater with each story told and eventually folklore is born; the Irish banshee, the Native American wendigo, and the Greek sirens are a few legends that have morphed or transformed into new scary stories to tell before bed.

“The Curse of La Llorona” is the newest scary movie to hit movie theaters, produced by the team who brought “The Conjuring” franchise to life and directed by newcomer Michael Chaves; it brings a figure of Mexican folklore to life in the ghost of the Weeping Woman. 

Anna (Linda Cardellini) is a social worker who is investigating possible child endangerment with a family that she has worked with in the past. Anna finds two children locked behind a door while a troubled mother warns her about an evil spirit that is trying to take her children. Anna ignores the warning and is soon brought into a supernatural realm where the spirit known as La Llorona is trying to claim Anna’s two children as her own.

“The Curse of La Llorona” has an interesting design working to its advantage; the image of a weeping woman in a white dress is a strong visual presence that is eerie when moving through dark shadowy corridors or lingering in dark corners. And, in an early scene involving a young boy disobeying his mother’s orders to stay in the car, the weeping woman is played to high effect with a really affecting jump scare. 

It’s unfortunate that this design element doesn’t prevail throughout the film as numerous scenes of the ghostly figure screaming loudly at her victims ruins the entire practical effect. This happens so early, and then so often, that it’s hard to return back to a basic scare element. It also doesn’t help that most of the scares are easily telegraphed, which wouldn’t be a problem if aspects of tension or apprehension were introduced into the concepts. 

Aspects of cultural spirituality and the connection to religious foundations are introduced to provide some substance to the mythology, but the attention would have been better suited for the characters within the story. Unfortunately, Anna’s motivations are so narrow within her composition that it’s difficult to find the emotional connection to her family. That’s a major problem when the entity stalking you is trying to steal your children.   

“The Curse of La Llorona” begins with promise and offers some really intriguing designs on a ghostly apparition. Unfortunately, the emphasis on trying to do so much with the concept of a simplistic scary figure, adding effects that don’t really offer the payoff of much simpler designs, undercuts the combination of fear and fun that this film is trying to induce. 

Monte’s Rating

2.00 out of 5.00

Wednesday, April 17

2019 PFF & IHSFF Festival Recap – Sunday, April 14th

2019 PFF & IHSFF Festival Recap – Sunday, April 14th

Coda’s ongoing coverage of the 2019 Phoenix Film Festival & International Horror Sci-Fi Film Festival. I'll be using these posts to recap the films I've experienced as part of these festivals.

TO TOKYO – Directed by Caspar Seale Jones

This is a metaphorical horror story about anxiety and paranoia in the same vein as some Lynch films. It actually reminded me visually of The Polish Brothers' NORTHFORK a bit. Lights, shadows, score and sound design all work together to create a hallucinatory depth of conscience. 

I would also add that I always appreciate a horror story that begins with the main character already afraid of the lurking figure. There are no expendables here to cast aside to get the tale started. We begin with the overwhelming feeling of dread that Florence Kosky's Al has seemingly been dealing with for some time already.

EXCURSION – Directed by Martin Grof

This is a very clever time travel plot that twists and turns in between present day and Soviet Moscow in the late 80's. Unfortunately, every aspect of the production value is distractingly bad, including the performances. 

I think the concept for this film would actually work very well for a long running Anime series or even possibly a Sci-Fi channel show. 

I'LL TAKE YOUR DEAD – Directed by Chad Archibald

William is a farmer that moonlights chopping up and disposing of dead bodies for gang members. As a result, his farm house is just riddled with ghosts. Then, when one of the bodies turns out to be a lot less dead than the others, he has to figure out what to do with her, attempting to keep himself on one side of the murderer line while still protecting his daughter. 

This is a well paced and excited film with an original concept. I was specifically impressed with the performance of Ava Preston, his 12 year old daughter. I just found the supernatural element around the whole thing a bit out of place. From a technical aspect, the ghosts were well done, with good makeup and startling jump-scares. But looking at the entire narrative, I can't really say that the story benefited at all from this realm. I'll probably still check it out again when it shows up streaming somewhere. 

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Sunday, April 14

2019 PFF & IHSFF Festival Recap – Saturday, Saturday 13th

2019 PFF & IHSFF Festival Recap – Saturday, April 13th

Coda’s ongoing coverage of the 2019 Phoenix Film Festival & International Horror Sci-Fi Film Festival. I'll be using these posts to recap the films I've experienced as part of these festivals.

RAISING BUCHANAN – Directed by Bruce Dellis

This is a very well scripted and well edited quirky little adorable comedy about three money struggling women, a ventriloquists mafia and one presidential corpse. The lead, Amanda Melby gave a very endearing performance. Bits of heartfelt drama never cross over into the sappy zone. And supporting performances by M. Emmet Walsh and Rene Auberjonois were quite outstanding.

This film has a great soul and I hope it makes some more noise in the coming months. I'd like to see it get legs.

HAIL SATAN? – Directed by Penny Lane

I would typically point out that this is a one-sided documentary that never really gives its opposing viewpoint a microphone. But historically, the other side's over-representation in this country is kind of the whole point of this film.

I'm kind of a news junkie and my politics sway pretty far to the left, specifically when considering First Amendment issues and the separation of Church and State. If that's you, you may not see anything here that sheds any new light to these things. The various court cases explored here were fairly well covered in mainstream media. 

That being said, if you're not all that familiar with this type of activism, this is a well made and informative doc that may interest you.

SOUTHERN PRIDE – Directed by Malcolm Ingram

What would it be like living as a member of the LGBTQ community in Southern Mississippi in the era of MAGA? This quiet little doc gives us a glimpse of a world that a certain segment of this country's population would rather just ignore. 

Through trails and tribulations, we follow two bar owners in neighboring towns working towards organizing Mississippi's first ever PRIDE festival.  Not everything is beautiful and triumphant, this is a 'warts-and-all' look but I feel like the overall takeaway was rather simple. These are some people that I most of us would probably enjoy spending time with. I appreciated this film. The more exposure these communities get, the more empathy and compassion we will all feel.

THE TOMORROW MAN – Directed by Noble Jones

With only one day left to the festivals, I can only hope that this ends up as my least favorite of the lot. A "doomsday prepper" (Lithgow) falls for a lonely hoarder (Danner). Together, they validate and enable each other. This film seemed far more interested in playing the two respective disorders for laughs than ever taking a critical look at any part of them. At least the audience I saw it with thought this was a comedy. Their roots in paranoia and obsessive compulsion and the fact that they come with vastly different stigmas and how harmful these disorders can be to loved ones mostly ended up on the cutting room floor here. 

I don't really have time to flesh this out here and I'm not usually in the habit of hate-writing reviews so I'll just stop here. I was not a fan. 

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