By Mark Saldana

Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Even though this latest installment in The Conjuring Universe premiered at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, I simply wasn’t quite that interested in the film to attend the festival screening. It was just a gut feeling, but at the time, I felt that this movie would either be pretty bad or mediocre at best. Well, my instincts were not to far off. The Curse of La Llorona, as entertaining as it can be, turns out to be taut, suspenseful thriller with subpar writing, and middle-of-the-road direction. It isn’t a terrible addition to the franchise, but it certainly isn’t a high point.

Based on the Mexican folklore legend of La Llorona (The Weeping Lady), the movie takes place in 1973. Linda Cardellini stars as Anna Tate-Garcia, a widowed social worker dealing with what is originally perceived as an abusive mother case. After discovering that troubled mother Patricia Alvarez has her children locked up in a closet, Anna has the mother arrested and her sons taken into protective custody. Though the boys show physical signs of abuse, both the mother and the sons claim that it was for their own protection.

Out of anger, Patricia prays that the source of her anguish, La Llorona, seeks out Anna and her children as her latest target. Though Anna originally disbelieves Patricia’s claims, she soon discovers that she might be telling the truth. Both she and her children begin to see visions of the apparition and begin experiencing the might of her wrath.

Written by Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis, and directed by Michael Chaves, The Curse of La Llorona might be suspenseful, occasionally exciting and sometimes funny, but it just doesn’t deliver genuine fright. The movie also suffers from the horror cliche of characters making dumb decisions. Only one particular moment is excusable, as it is committed by a little girl. Still, when adult characters who are supposed to be smart make dumb choices, this is rather frustrating.

To the movie’s defense, the cast members all offer solid work, including the child actors. Linda Cardellini gives a passionate and heartfelt turn as Anna Tate-Garcia, a loving mother still coping with the loss of her late husband. Raymond Cruz often steals the show and has all of the better comedic material as Rafael Olvera, a former priest-turned-curandero who helps the Garcia family fight off La Llorona. Sean Patrick-Thomas gives a charismatic performance as Detective Cooper, a friend of the Garcia family.

Patricia Velasquez stars as Patricia Alvarez, the distraught, desperate an angry mother first cursed by La Llorona. Her work here is emotional, but sometimes a bit much. Both Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen and Roman Christou perform well as the Garcia children, as do Oliver Alexander and Aiden Lewandowski as the Alvarez boys. As for La Llorona, Marisol Ramirez is okay, but the makeup and effects just don’t really make her all that scary.

So, even though I do not recommend people spending expensive ticket prices to see this film, it would make for a fine movie to watch at home. For better, worse, or in the middle, The Conjuring Universe continues. This one falls smack dab in the middle, because I have seen way better and I have definitely seen worse. Up next for this franchise is another Annabelle movie, followed by a third Conjuring installment. Let’s hope these are better.

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