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Film Review: “The Legend of La Llorona” Offers Cheap Take on Classic Latin American Lore

Film poster: “The Legend of La Llorona”

The Legend of La Llorona (Patricia Harris Seeley, 2021) 1½ out of 4 stars.

The mysterious “La Lloron”a has had many film adaptations over the past several years. The entity is a staple in Latin American folklore, the tale centering around a woman who, after suffering heartbreak from the love of her life and father of her children, decides to drown the children and later herself in a fit of rage. Legend has it that the spirit of La Llorona, in a white wedding gown, even these many years later, still roams around bodies of water, lurking in the shadows and waiting for children who wander off at night to snatch them away. Some in Hispanic culture claim that the La Llorona story was concocted as a way to make children behave, but many believe she is in fact a real, terrifying spirit and a grave danger. The urban legend is fascinating material for many types of media, but unfortunately director Patricia Harris Seeley’s The Legend of La Llorona wastes its potential.

In the film, couple Carly (Autumn Reeser) and Andrew (Antonio Cupo) Candlewood set out on a vacation with their son Danny (Nicolas Madrazo) to a luxurious villa in Mexico. Upon arrival, they are greeted warmly, but locals express concern over the fact that the Candlewoods brought a child with them. Not long after they arrive, Danny is haunted by visions of a woman in a white dress. Soon enough, Danny disappears. Carly and Andrew think that a dangerous drug cartel captured Danny, but the locals conclude that it was something more terrifying: La Llorona herself.

l-r: Autumn Reeser and Nicolas Madrazo in THE LEGEND OF LA LLORONA ©Mongrel Media

Sadly, as intriguing as the premise sounds, the film itself is bogged down in many issues. The performances are fine, but the dialogue between most of the characters is very on-the-nose and conventional. There is also far too much exposition throughout the film. The plot is very problematic at times, with characters withholding important information for no rhyme or reason and some story points devoid of basic logic. Finally, La Llorona, the spirit that the film is centered around, is very poorly portrayed, both in her appearance and her capabilities. Her design looks cheesy and downright laughable, coming off in some scenes as fog and others as a mere cloth. Even when the full spirit reveals itself, it still looks like a jumbled mess of special effects displayed through a projector. La Llorona’s powers are very confusing throughout the film, as well, as they are undefined and ever-changing.

There are a few bright spots in the film, such as the creepy, suspenseful opening sequence and a few decent jump scares throughout. The chemistry between Andrew and Carly is fairly good, as well, even if their dialogue is stale. The set design and surrounding environment in the film are of high quality, too. I will also give some respect to the fact that this film takes the plot in a different direction and adds a bit more material to the La Llorona legend than other adaptations I’ve seen. However, this is for better and for worse, as even though some of the new aspects are compelling, others feel out of place. Also, even with some fresh material, the conclusion of the film is quite predictable and there are some very obvious coincidences that lead to the resolution. Overall, The Legend of La Llorona disappoints and is one of the lesser films to feature the iconic ghost. It may be one of the more unique entries, but that’s not necessarily a compliment, and there are far better films that use La Llorona in a far more effective way.

l-r: Autumn Reeser and Danny Trejo in THE LEGEND OF LA LLORONA ©Mongrel Media

Matt Patti has enjoyed voicing his opinions on films from a young age. He has lived in the Baltimore, Maryland, area since 2015 and is a graduate of Stevenson University’s Film & Moving Image program. Matt is currently back at Stevenson University, working as the School of Design, Arts, and Communication's Studio Manager.

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