If you’re a horror buff, you may have heard of La Llorona, the Mexican banshee who is the titular weeping woman of The Curse of the Weeping Woman. As can be expected, her weeping is merely a ploy to lure unsuspecting victims to her, because she abandons all pretence of being miserable halfway through the film and becomes the vengeful spirit that we all want to see, complete with vicious attacks and creepy hauntings. But the true star of the show is director Michael Chaves, who uses the camera cleverly and cunningly to achieve all manner of scares.
The film follows the plight of a social worker who is still reeling from the loss of her husband, but has two children that she still has to support. When one of her cases goes wrong, she finds that her family has become the target of a vicious ghost who will stop at nothing to take her two children. Left with few other options, she must turn to an unorthodox ghost hunter to save her family — or lose them forever.
The sound design for the film may not be the most subtle, but it sets the mood effectively. That being said, sometimes the volume for certain effects may be so stealthily increased that you don’t notice it until right before the big scare. This results in a subconscious ratcheting up of tension in the viewer, so that they’re perfectly primed for the fright. It’s an excellent technique which ripens audiences so that they get the most out of scares.
As can be expected, the two children, Samantha (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) and Chris (Roman Christou) bear the brunt of the hauntings in the film, although their mother, Anna (Linda Cardellini) is a victim too. While Samantha can be infuriatingly dense at times, older brother Chris is the very picture of innocence, thanks in part to the excellent choice of casting Christou in the part. He is equal parts brave and scared, and his desperation is palpable as he deals with the various incursions of La Llorona (Marisol Ramirez). Our fear doesn’t just come from the fact that Chris is threatened, but the fact that we know Chris will also try his best to protect his mother and sister from the ghost. As a result, the personal stakes are intensified and we feel a greater sense of endangerment whenever Chris walks into yet another dangerous situation. We don’t want to see such innocence being punished because to some extent, we project our vulnerabilities on to Chris.
Part of what makes the scares so good is the skilful use of camera angles to present shots from the protagonists’ point-of-view. Yes, there are many jerky, handheld shots in the film, but they’re used sparingly and intentionally. Thanks to the choice of limited perspective and blocked line of sight in those shots, we get a first-hand feel of the terror felt by the main characters. There are jump scares, but there are just as many lingering and tense shots which evoke a spooky atmosphere. The best scares are those that we conjure in our mind, and The Curse of the Weeping Woman knows that well.
Unlike most horror films, The Curse of the Weeping Woman gives you some breathing room between scares with comic relief. Although some of the humour can be unintentional at times, it does serve to balance the otherwise intense scares of the film. That’s not to say that it isn’t scary — the movie devotes a good part of the running time to a climactic final confrontation with La Llorona, which involves multiple hair-raising moments. But the fact that it eases up in between frights is what makes it more of an entertaining horror movie, rather than a horror film that you’ll need days to recover from.
However, La Llorona herself isn’t quite as fearsome as you’d expect. She’s much more terrifying in your imagination than in the actual movie, and it’s slightly underwhelming when we actually see the spirit’s face for the first time. Her visage is fairly standard, at least for ghosts in The Conjuring film universe, so it’s not like she defies any sort of expectations. However, her sudden movements and disappearances continue to scare us all the way to the end of the movie, so it’s not too big a deal if she doesn’t look all that frightful.
The Curse of the Weeping Woman‘s biggest strength is that it scares well, but balances it with some light-hearted scenes. You’ll leave the cinema having lived through another roller coaster ride of horror, but with your blood pressure intact. In that sense, it’s the perfect movie for those who want an evening of excitement without being overburdened by nightmarish visuals for days to come.
Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.
Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? If you want an enjoyable scare, yes.
Running time: 93 minutes
The Curse of the Weeping Woman is a horror movie that’s the sixth instalment in The Conjuring shared movie universe. It is also known as The Curse of La Lorona.
The film revolves around the haunting of a single mother and her two children. They accidentally incur the wrath of a violent and cruel Mexican ghost who plagues them persistently, and must find a way to circumvent the curse before it is too late.
The Curse of the Weeping Woman is directed by Michael Chaves and written by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis. It stars Linda Cardellini (Anna Tate-Garcia), Raymond Cruz (Rafael Olvera), Patricia Velasquez (Patricia Alvarez), Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen (Samantha Garcia), Roman Christou (Chris Garcia), and Marisol Ramirez (La Llorona). It is rated NC-16.
The Curse of the Weeping Woman opens in cinemas:
– 17 April, 2019 (Singapore)
– 1 May, 2019 (Philippines)
Marcus Goh is a scriptwriter, having written for popular shows like “Lion Mums”, “Crimewatch”, “Code of Law”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.
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