The Curse of the Weeping Woman movie review: New Conjuring spin-off may be better than the originals
The Curse of the Weeping Woman movie review: The Conjuring spin-off unearths the Mexican folklore of La Llorona, for a film that might be better than the originals.Updated: Apr 18, 2019 09:49 IST
The Curse of the Weeping Woman
Director - Michael Chavez
Cast - Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez
Rating - 2.5/5
The tagline they’ve given The Curse of the Weeping Woman - ‘She wants your children,” yelled as if in all-caps - does a disservice to the film, which is way mellower than anything the Conjuring series has ever produced. Not only is the tagline tacky, it’s also quite inaccurate - the Weeping Woman doesn’t limit herself to taking others’ children, you’d be surprised to learn, but she is also partial to riverside strolls and Gothic makeup (which she spoils every time she weeps).
Based on a popular (I’m told) Mexican folk tale called La Llorona, which literally translates to ‘Weeping Woman’, the film has been renamed here to suit our easily confused tastes. But the exotic flavour that is lost in translation is heightened by debutant director Michael Chavez’s obvious love for his culture.
Watch the Curse of the Weeping Woman trailer here
It is easily the most cinematic instalment of the Conjuring series, not as reliant on empty jump scares and cheap scare tactics that the other films in the franchise so often use as a crutch. Floorboards still creak with annoying regularity, and the windows rattle like there’s a perpetual storm brewing, but Chavez is surprisingly restrained - until his contractual obligation to dress his film in Conjuring clothes compels him to ruin everything.
In that regard, both he and the titular spook of his film are alike. Like the Weeping Woman, who legend claims killed her two children by drowning them in a river, Chavez around the halfway mark also takes his film by the scruff of the neck, and violently murders it with his own hands.
For around 45 minutes, I was convinced the Conjuring series had outdone itself. Despite the larger populace’s adoration for this franchise, I’ve never appreciated its brand of ‘horror’, which favours momentary fright over sustained terror. And my opinion was only aggravated after the most recent instalment, The Nun, which was the absolute worst. Unfortunately, the Curse of the Weeping Woman is never able to live up to its phenomenal title and admittedly excellent premise.
What begins as a very specific tale of haunting and possession, wonderfully shot by Michael Burgess and impressively performed by a strong cast led by Linda Cardellini, turns into a by-the-numbers horror film, in which problems are solved not by application of the mind, but by screaming real loud and pointing crucifixes in their general direction.
The Conjuring series is the rare interconnected franchise that worked, after every studio scrambled to replicate the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and fell flat on their face. The trademarks are all there, as they have to be, I suppose. Children in peril, hapless mothers, things that go ‘boo’ in the dark - the Curse of the Weeping Woman has it all. And then there are the large sections of the film in which Chavez discards his smooth aesthetic and openly apes Conjuring godfather James Wan’s POV-style horror filmmaking.
That is most certainly not his strength. Where Chavez succeeds is in his ability to frame haunting images and to highlight the traits that set Hispanic horror apart from other religious themed films. This isn’t the first time that an American studio has dabbled in either Catholicism or Latin folklore - Andy Muschietti did it with his first film, the rather forgettable Mama, and so did the Paranormal Activity series, with the Marked Ones.
These films’ inevitable deference to mysticism and disgruntled padres almost convinces me that one day there’ll be a Conjuring movie - maybe Conjuring 12 - set in India, where a Baba Ramdev type will enter the fray in act three, armed with nothing more than a rudraksh and a nimble body, and he will neutralise the threat by feeding it a pack of instant noodles.
We might not live to see that wonderful film in our lifetimes, so it is incredibly reassuring that Wan has handpicked Chavez to direct Conjuring 3.
But until such time as this series starts investing in good scripts, it might as well surrender itself to creepy dolls or slender men or weeping women - whichever seems hungriest at that particular moment - because the audience has learnt to look over its shoulder now; the element of surprise has been lost.