Living as a giddy Blumhouse geek – applauding their contribution to the paranormal horror genre – I merit most of the branches existing within the expanding Conjuring universe, despite a few hiccups landing beside its original double feature. While I worried that quantity over quality would become favoured in a market for first daters in search of their Friday night thrills, it would appear that this fear has surfaced again in light of the lack of originality, research and balls to dive deeper from Michael Chaves “not another jump scare movie”.
Cue a prologue told in flashback and rush into the modern day to welcome down the Garcia family and their chance to win a whole new outlook on life, as they play Banish the Banshee. Linda Cardellini (remembered for being effortlessly deflated by Elle Woods in Legally Blonde) juggles parenting, social work and widowers grief whilst being tormented by the weeping woman of Mexican legend, La Llorono. A single parent with two kids, alone in their seventies house fitted with 19th century lighting and I think you can fill in the rest of the plot details.
2017’s Veronica springs to mind when Spanish lore resurfaces, but the origin in Chaves first main feature concludes thin and shockingly unexplored. Blame must also fall to rookie writers Tobias Laconis and Mikki Daughtry for aiming to rake in the cash rather than whip up any scenario with substance. As every exorcist should possess their own, personal crucifix, a director – especially of this genre – should push to leave their mark, instead of riding on the echoes of shrieking scares gone before. Pacing is a real problem here, as the narrative seems to jump from one cliche to another and race for the earth-shaking denouement.
Cardellini brings real strength to matriarch Anna, but her underwhelming character material cannot save her from being drowned by this westernized bore. The cliches that reappear and expect you to welcome them with open arms left me crying out ‘Enough!’. Announcing “She’s already here”, investigating the attic and watching through dead eyes while the final confrontation goes down admist another fucking stormy night gets painfully dull.
Frustrations aside, a climactic pool scene, cathartic slow-motion and dreamy lighting are the perks that sadly expire rapidly, replaced with poor comic relief like using eggs as a spirit detector. Speaking of eggs, Annabelle, The Conjuring and Scooby-Doo easter eggs can be hunted, a reminder that this stowaway is part of a franchise that is, for the most part, handled better. Top marks if you recognised Anna’s superior as the father from nineties Disney show, Smart Guy.
Unfortunately for Chaves, tolerance is depleting with these money-grabbing productions that use the familiar bag of tricks to induce heart jitters and give you a false sense of belief that you’re actually being entertained. Cheap thrill films make great Halloween drinking games, but from the viewpoint of horror enthusiasts who want better, La Llorono lies on the dire side of The Conjuring franchise.
These half-arsed productions tend to draw out the inner pessimist, but to end on a lighter note, The Conjuring 3 has started production – with the return of power duo Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga – but with Michael Chaves at the helm, it may fall to Orphan and The Walking Dead writer David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick to put Chaves on the straight and narrow.
Directed by: Michael Chaves
Cast: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velasquez, Roman Christou, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Marisol Ramirez
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