A film review by Blanca Tamez
Her grief knows no bounds; her wails terrifyingly echo throughout the dead of night. She roams endlessly in search for what she lost. Bound by a pain so horrifyingly destructive that it transformed her soul into that of a legendary phantom known as La llorona.
The story of this tortured spirit has been told and reimagined many times through film. The original movie, La llorona, was first introduced to viewers in 1933 by Ramón Peón and is considered the first Mexican horror picture ever. Fast forward to present times and you have more than 40 titles with varying interpretations of the legend of la llorona available for streaming on Netflix, Prime, Shudder, Hudu, Vudu, you name it!
Some depict this legend as a mother who accidentally lost her children in a river only to later discover their horrid demise. Other versions depict her as the cursed mother who killed her children out of jealousy or lunacy and is doomed to roam the earth in search of them, in most cases (or all) to replace them.
The most recent adaptation of this film is aptly entitled La Llorona and is directed by Jayro Bustamante. The movie is unrated and can be streamed via the Shudder network. Under Bustamante’s writing and direction, this movie takes on a different and interesting life.
Set during the ending times of the Guatemalan Civil War and the discovery of the Mayan genocides, the plot of the story gives us a glimpse into the life of a war general responsible for committing many atrocities. During his journey, the viewer can gain an insight into his family life, his trial for his actions as well as his haunting by our favorite spirit, la llorona. One thing I do want to outline about Bustamante’s writing and direction is his ability to capture the atmosphere of the moment. Many scenes were palpable and evoked many feelings that helped me resonate with the situation at hand. At times, you almost feel for the general’s family, and at others, you are happy to see some sort of justice taking place.
I do not want to spoil the movie for anyone, or give too much information away, but I can’t stress enough just how the littlest things made the difference in the movie. A small spoiler ahead, so, please skip below if you’d like to keep a bit of mystery about this film. The majority of the story takes place in the General’s home. Usually in suspenseful movies you have ominous music playing in the background; in La llorona, this was a rare occurrence; most of the soundtrack was provided by the people protesting outside of the general’s home. Their shouts and pleas could be heard as the family’s life continued inside the home. As a teacher of Latino culture and admirer of history, this made me rejoice in happiness knowing that someone was able to depict such a truthful picture of one of the most important events in Guatemalan history.
Depending on what level of horror you are into, you may or may not like this movie. If you are into historical/political dramas and do not mind the subtle hints of horror mixed in, then this film is perfect for you. Open your mind to the situation experienced by the family and its members and you will come to understand many of the horrible outcomes of a hidden genocide in an impoverished country. The character of the llorona in this film is a bit of an enigma. She is a subtle influence that provides trouble for the antagonists as well as justice for the “desaparecidos” (disappeared).
If your taste in horror involves something more along the lines of Michael Chaves’ The Curse of the Llorona, you might be disappointed. This movie is far removed from the films of the “conjuring universe.” The horror in Bustamante’s Llorana is very slow to build up and when it does occur, it is more of a “hint” and extremely symbolic to the plot of the film.
If you’d like for me to review a particular film, please let me know!!! There should be a place set out her for you to contact us. Next review, Ghost Killers vs. Bloody Mary.