The Legend of La Llorona is the latest film dealing with the wailing spirit from Mexican folklore. Recently popularized in the US by the Conjuring spin-off The Curse of La Llorna, she’s been haunting screens at least since 1963’s The Curse of the Crying Woman and turning up in everything from found footage films like The La Llorna Curse to politically charged horror such as Jayro Bustamante’s acclaimed La Llorna.
This time around we have an American family Carly Candlewood (Autumn Reeser, Dead Trigger, Valley of Bones) her husband Andrew (Antonio Cupo, Vault, American Mary) and their son Danny (Nicolas Madrazo) on vacation in Mexico. It’s not a very festive trip however as they’re trying to get over Carly’s recent miscarriage.
Veronica (Angélica Lara) the housekeeper at their rental is shocked when she discovers they’ve brought Danny. Friendly taxi driver Jorge (Danny Trejo, Death Rider in the House of Vampires, The Last Exorcist) fills them in on the danger to the boy from La Llorna (Zamia Fandiño, Cantinflas) who coincidentally roams the banks of the nearby creek. But as long as they stay near the house they should be safe he tells them. Do you think they listen?
Patricia Harris Seeley (Caution: May Contain Nuts) directed The Legend of La Llorona from a script by Jose Prendes (Unspeakable Horrors: The Plan 9 Conspiracy, Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark) from a story by Cameron Larson (Jurassic Predator: Xtinction, Sand Sharks) and the problems are almost immediately noticeable.
The dialogue between Carly and Andrew is incredibly clunky and frequently feels more like exposition than anything real people would say. And given the issues they’re having, and the number of prescription bottles Carly has with her staying home and close to a therapist seems a smarter idea than going to rural Mexico.
The Legend of La Llorona also seems to think that going on vacation to a country with the issues Mexico has should be as a simple matter of booking an Airbnb. I don’t expect most vacation sites to mention child-stealing ghosts, but Jorge tells them the area has problems with cartel violence. You would think they would have noticed that when they were planning the trip and gone elsewhere.
For her part, Seeley does manage to get some nicely atmospheric night shots and occasionally creepy shots of La Llorna herself despite some so-so effects work. The spirit’s first attempt to grab Danny is well-staged and made me hopeful that The Legend of La Llorona would at least provide some popcorn entertainment. Unfortunately, the script lets the film down in that department as well as it keeps changing its mind about how powerful La Llorna is and just what she can do. At some points, she flees when adults approach, at others she’s strong enough to harm them. She’s a ghost but Jorge can shoot her with a shotgun.
Prendes’ background includes writing several films for The Asylum where matters of consistency and continuity aren’t particularly important. In some cases that seems to be part of the film’s appeal. Here however it’s different and these kinds of mistakes are noticeable and quickly drag The Legend of La Llorona down.
And that’s too bad because The Legend of La Llorona has some decent visuals and jump scares. There are also nicely done flashbacks to the spirit’s origins which are the best part of the film. But it’s not enough to overcome a mess of a script that, even when it hits on a good idea, doesn’t know what to do with it.
The Legend of La Llorna is available on VOD and Digital platforms from Saban Films. You can check their Facebook page for more details.