A ghost clad in billowing white garments steals children in “The Curse of La Llorona.” (Warner Bros)

A ghost clad in billowing white garments steals children in “The Curse of La Llorona.” (Warner Bros)

‘Curse of La Llorona’ conjures a handful of forgettable scares

A single mom battles a ghost that steals children in this competent but by-the-numbers horror film.

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

Talk to us

More in Life

Rich Davis works on finishing the deck of his home in Mukilteo on June 11. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Mukilteo man’s pandemic project: A 500-square-foot deck

Rich Davis had never built anything before, but the shutdown left him with ample time to learn a new skill.

It only takes a small amount of cash to build a homemade swamp cooler to make your home comfortable this summer. (Jennifer Bardsley)
Can a do-it-yourself swamp cooler beat the August heat?

Instead of spending $400 for an air conditioner, purchase $25 of simple parts and assemble one yourself.

Oslo’s City Hall, with stirring murals and art that depict Norway’s history. (Rick Steves, Rick Steves’ Europe)
Rick Steves on Oslo, the polar opposite of ‘Big Box’ culture

The Norwegian capital city is expensive, but its charm and civility are priceless.

Also known as Rose of Sharon, hibiscus is a hardy shrub is one of the few that blooms in the late summer. (Nicole Phillips)
Hibiscus will bring a tropical look to your August garden

Also known as Rose of Sharon, the hardy shrub is one of the few that blooms in the late summer.

Dave Dodge stands on a speaker while playing his guitar during Nite Wave’s show at Tony V’s Garage on Saturday, June 8, 2019 in Everett, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Curtain falls on Tony V’s in Everett — at least for now

The nightspot was hit hard by the coronavirus epidemic. It might reopen when the county hits Phase 4 of the state reopening plan.

2020 Cadillac CT4 has elegant looks, animated performance

This luxury compact sedan is all new, and it offers a choice between two turbocharged engines.

Lennon Wiltbank’s art adorns an abandoned, soon-to-be-demolished home and spreads joy in her neighborhood.
For this Bothell artist, ‘happiness is flowers’

Lennon Wiltbank’s art adorns an abandoned, soon-to-be-demolished home and spreads joy in her neighborhood.

Glacier Lanes won’t be spared: Owners decide to close forever

Bowlers statewide are rallying to open venues shut by COVID rules, but this Everett business isn’t waiting.

Practice the art of doing nothing to nurture inner peace

It’s the ability to sit, listen to the sounds of nature, look at nothing in particular, and just be.

Most Read