'The Curse of the Weeping Woman' film review: A weak addition to the Conjuring franchise
With films like A Quiet Place, Hereditary, Get Out and Us, horror as a genre is undergoing quite the renaissance, as directors are trying to stretch the limits of the genre. But the success — or should I say rebirth of horror itself -- owes itself to the success of The Conjuring. A lot of films have since tried to replicate that success with largely disappointing results, with many trying to leech off of the name gained by the original. The latest to join that list is The Curse of the Weeping Woman.
James Wan wants to do to horror what Kevin Feige did to comics-based films -- which is create a universe in which ghosts from one film can flit into the other, and in the process, maybe create a ghost edition of the Avengers. How else can you explain the appearance of Annabelle or Father Perez in this film? If he is indeed trying to assemble a ghostly team, I guess he is on point.
The Weeping Woman aka La Llorana is a Mexican urban legend. The most beautiful woman in all of Mexico in the 17th century, she married a guy and bore him two children. One day, she found him in the arms of a younger woman and to spite him, killed her two young boys by drowning them in the river in a fit of jealous rage. Realising her folly soon after, she wept on the banks of a river before killing herself. Since then, she has been roaming the banks of river banks to kill more such siblings, supposedly.
The protagonist of the story, Anna Garcia (Linda Cardellini), is a social worker who works with child services and repatriation. A widow, she has two children, Sam (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) and Chris (Roman Christou), whom she raises all alone in 1973 Los Angeles. During one of her regular visits, she finds that one of her clients, Patricia (Patricia Velasquez), is hiding her sons in a closet marked with mysterious drawings. An atheist, she doesn’t believe in the drawings, and inspite of a protesting Patricia, opens the door and becomes responsible for all the hell that follows the families of Patricia and hers.
It is an intriguing story, and could be said to be the darkest of the series after Annabelle. Here is a single mother who sacrifices a lot for her children, gets chided for coming late to work, and even brings home her work. You contrast that to the murderous mother that is the ghost, La Llorona whose work-life balance is, truth be told, not all that hard to maintain. What could have been fantastic drama in storytelling instead becomes a regular scarefest, only without the scares. At one point, I was just mentally checking the cliches: Cracked mirrors, self-managed doors, crosses. You get it.
The best scenes of this film are those that are devoid of these cliches. The opening shot that captures all the madness that is getting ready for school, is long and dynamic, and makes for one of the sunniest openings a horror film has had. And then, there is the ghost who is trying to shampoo young Sam when she is taking a bath. Not one but two fantastic Sam Raimi-esque zoom shots, showcase this ghost and the mystical nature of this story. And of course, to round these up, there is Raymond Cruz, the curandero, a priest who has shunned the practices of the Church for localised shaman practices. His comic timing and the way he goes about his job is a breath of fresh air.
A story with a unique native setup, The Curse of The Weeping Woman, unfortunately, doesn’t stick to its roots. The success of the Conjuring franchise was how it was rooted to the American culture of the South. This film though is neither worldly nor other-worldly, and is instead stuck somewhere in between. Ultimately, it’s a film that drowns in its cliches.
Director: Michael Chaves