We’ve had plenty of werewolf pictures, and Bigfoot films, and even a few titles devoted to the wendigo, the man-eating monster of New England.
But what of La Llorona? In the realm of folk horror, the Mexican legend of La Llorona — the “Weeping Woman” — has popped up only rarely.
Here’s a franchise-building opportunity, because “The Curse of La Llorona” brings this child-snatching ghost front and center. The latest from “Conjuring” producer James Wan, this outing is notable for one good performance and an almost complete lack of distinctiveness.
After a weirdly bland opening sequence set in Mexico in the 15th century, we skip ahead to 1973, because — well, why not? The fashions are dyn-o-mite, and the timeframe allows for a teeny-tiny connection to the “Conjuring” movie universe.
A social worker, Anna (Linda Cardinelli), tries to help a bewitched mother (Patricia Velasquez) whose children are in danger. She unleashes La Llorona instead.
Anna herself is a widow, with two kids (Roman Christou, Jaynee-Lynn Kinchen) in a big old house. Did we mention that La Llorona steals children?
It doesn’t take long for the mean ghost, clad in billowing white garments and weeping ink-black tears, to settle on Anna’s family as her next target.
Director Michael Chaves blends two horror strains here: the haunted-house picture, and the “Exorcist” tradition. The door-banging, window-slamming shocks in the home are reasonably well executed.
We’ve also got a Latino priest (crafty veteran Tony Amendola in the same role he played in “Annabelle”) who doesn’t exactly endorse the idea of La Llorona, but doesn’t exactly deny it, either.
Jumping in for the thunder-and-lightning final act is a renegade ex-priest (Raymond Cruz), a kind of Catholic/voodoo exorcist. The movie definitely needs his demon-fighting toolkit, which includes eggs with black yolks and the crumbled bark of a Mexican tree — your basic Catholic/voodoo exorcism stuff.
“Curse” gets some credibility from its decent cast, especially Linda Cardellini, an actress whose career should’ve been bigger than her “Scooby-Doo” films and her faithful-wife role in “Green Book.” Her emotional commitment here is a case study in professionalism. (There’s also a “Scooby-Doo” shout-out, because this movie knows its audience.)
This is a slick film, and generally competent. But there’s almost nothing memorable about it. I found myself wishing the movie would get cheesier, or invent more spooky folklore, or risk something beyond delivering conventional scares. As it is, it’s just well-tooled product.
“The Curse of La Llorona” (2 stars)
A single mom (Linda Cardellini) is bothered by a centuries-old ghost who steals children — a bit of Mexican folklore known as La Llorona. The movie is definitely competent in its door-slamming scares, and Cardellini is a pro, but there are very few surprises along the way.
Rating: R, for violence, language
Opening Friday: Alderwood, Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Seattle 10, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall