La Llorona: The BRWC Review. By George Clark.
Shudder’s 2020 Spanish language horror, La Llorona, directed by Jayro Bustamante and starring Sabrina De La Hoz, María Mercedes Coroy and Julio Diaz, is a quiet, trembling film that sadly doesn’t utilise its potential to full effect. Set In Guatemala, the story depicts Alma, a young woman who is murdered with her children during a military attack thirty years prior. In the present day, the general who ordered the genocide is found not guilty, and thus Alma comes back to the world of the living to torment him for his sins.
In Jayro Bustamante’s third feature film, he reimagines the old Latin American legend of La Llorona with a social/political spin showing just how the indigenous people in Guatemala were victimised by those of higher power. Many reviews surrounding La llorona should entail that this Spanish language film has nothing to do with Michael Chaves’ “The Curse of La Llorona” that debuted the previous year and is part of the wider Conjuring universe.
Instead, the film itself, also known as “The Weeping Woman, takes a completely different approach, avoiding the usual tropes of many horror films, instead opting for a smart film that’s filled with the sense of realism, with the real horror lying not in the supernatural but in the savage acts of men with power beyond control.
This reimagining of the famous folkloric figure is a reminder that in the right hands, horror can prove successful. Turning into something that’s as skin crawling as it is impactful, holding an indescribable ideological potency that won’t only prove meaningful to many viewers, but will make the outer world think about the horrors that occurred. However, it’s sad to say that, despite the politics being meaningful and thought provoking throughout, La Llorona fails to create a horror film that scares you.
There’s a high sense that the film is building to something, an ultimate payoff if you may, but it never does. The film builds and builds, but the pay-off feels underwhelming. Perhaps even disappointing to what had come before. That sense of skin crawling, eerie atmosphere is never developed beyond ground level and whilst Bustamante direction, the way it’s shot and acted was consistently plausible, I found myself frequently restless, wishing the story would pick up some sort of speed and scare me more with its source material.
The horrors of the Guatemalan civil war are brought to life through the incarnation of the ‘weeping woman’ brilliantly, but the story never utilises itself to full effect and thus, while being a painful reflection of the injustice caused, it’s a story that would be better suited to a slow-burn political drama that merges the real-life horrors of the Guatemalan genocide, rather than an eerie horror film that never truly worked.
It’s certainly not a film for everyone, but if you can look past the weak jump scares and the lack of horror many general audiences perceive as scary, you’ll be sucked into this elegantly crafted folktale to the point it will linger with you for hours to come.
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