[Review] “The Legend of La Llorona” hides a moving ghost story in a cheesy presentation
Directed by Patricia harris seeley, written by Cameron Larson (story) and Jose prendes (scenario), The Legend of La Llorona follows a family on vacation to Mexico in an effort to escape the grief that has overwhelmed them. The mom, Carly (Fall reeser) is gloomy and distraught, while her husband Andrew (Antonio Cupo) strives to make the holidays enjoyable for him and their son Danny (Nicolas madrazo). Present by their side throughout the story are two prominent secondary characters – Veronica (Angelica Lara), their housekeeper, and Jorge (Danny trejo), a friendly taxi driver. But the family’s trip turns out to be anything but relaxing, as they attempt to navigate their surroundings and avoid dangerous cartel members, as well as that of La Llorona herself (played by Zamia Fandiño).
The ghost has haunted the family from the start, trying to take Danny away. It doesn’t take long until she succeeds and Carly, Andrew, Veronica and Jorge decide to save the boy. Although The Legend of La Llorona struggles under the weight of a cheesy presentation and surface suspense, it still offers an emotionally strong narrative to invest in.
Narratively, the film presents an intriguing premise with a fair amount of mystique and curiosity to entice viewers. What really helps elevate the overall experience is the potential care that the public can develop towards the family. Each actor brings a sincerity to their role that shows a family struggling to heal from tremendous pain; in the way they support each other and come together, there is a lot that can be done to engage audiences and support them. Watching Carly and the other adults attempt to find and rescue Danny is the real driving force and the place where one can feel most engaged.
It’s such a shame how funny a lot of interactions with La Llorona are (although its backstory provides a powerful and heartbreaking factor to the narrative as well). While the ghost itself has spooky moments to chase after and haunt people, much of its animation seems wacky. This version of La Llorona is also very strong and has the means to pursue the family beyond their usual lands; So while the investigative work behind her stop is interesting, it’s hard to feel a level of seriousness when people pull out shotguns and pistols and try to detonate her.
For a movie that includes a decent amount of heavy subject matter – with a strong emphasis on parenting – you can’t help but laugh when these scenes come up (because it happens more than once). Where the film could have leaned more into tones of terror and other supernatural horrors, La Llorona can come across as a cheesy threat. In fact, while they feel like a weird push from side characters, the relatively low screen time available to Cartel characters makes them the most baffling threat to the family.
There are a lot of promises at the start of The Legend of La Llorona, and thankfully, some of those stronger qualities of the film remain consistent throughout. It’s just a bummer then when the movie features more surface-level chills that undermine moments of weirdness and dark aura. Had there been more attention paid to the atmosphere, and perhaps less oddly abrasive action, The Legend of La Llorona may have offered more ghostly power to scare the audience away.
The Legend of La Llorona is now available on VOD points of sale.