Our producer-at-large Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., a USC film-school grad, does a regular feature here called BASED ON, looking at literary works adapted into TV or movies.
The Curse of La Llorona, a film written by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis set within the The Conjuring Universe, whose films are based on the writings of the late Ed and Lorraine Warren.
The Conjuring Universe is to me what the Marvel Universe is to everyone else. Presuming I, or my priest colleague at Family Theater Productions, haven’t already consulted on one of the films, I’m there on opening weekend for a good ‘ole-fashioned scare. This is true of the main Conjuring Warren-centered films: the Annabelle prequels, The Nun standalone, and this most recent offering, The Curse of La Llorona.
Interestingly enough, Lorraine Warren, a real-life lay Catholic exorcist died on Holy Thursday, in the Eastern time zone, which meant it was already Good Friday in other parts of the world — the only day of the year Catholics are forbidden from celebrating Mass. So unable to offer a Mass intention for the repose of her soul, I sought a more secular connection through the big screen.
According to Mexican folklore, the Weeping Woman, or “La Llorona,”in inspired by the story of a 17th-Century woman, who, through a case of jilted love, drowned her two sons in a river. Wracked with guilt, she took her own life. She now supposedly haunts children, looking for a new pair of siblings to take the place of her own departed kids. Obey your parents, or La Llorona will come for you, many Spanish-speaking parents warn their misbehaving offspring.
The filmmakers put a literal demonic twist to this folktale. The ghost seems to be possessed by a demonic spirit(s) and exhibits supernatural powers typically attributed to said spirit(s). The widowed mother (Linda Cardellini) and her son and daughter receive burns on their forearms from the Weeping Woman. Once attached to the family like spiritual glue, La Llorona antagonizes the poor family throughout the film.
The subject matter orbits a very contested realm of demonology: can the souls of a dead, wicked person become possessed by a demonic spirit? The greatest exorcist of modern time, the late Fr. Gabriele Amorth, SSP (of The Devil and Father Amorth fame) would say “No.” A soul goes to hell, heaven or purgatory upon death. A minority of Catholic exorcists disagrees. The film chooses this dissenting path for a new take on a familiar genre.
Father Perez (Tony Amendola, who also played the same character in the first Annabelle prequel) tells the widow the Archdiocese would take weeks to approve a spiritual intervention. Since the nature of the offending spirit remains murky, the family is left with the local curandero. Raymond Cruz plays Rafael Olvera, a former priest, still believing in most of Catholicism, but mixing it with the rituals of native spirituality, he’s a shaman of some Latin America kind. Logically, then, his syncretistic prayers prove only partially efficacious.
It’s ultimately fitting that I don’t know how the film resolved. In the film’s culminating scene, when one of the children drives a crucifix through the heart of La Llorona, the power in the movie theater cut out …
Here’s the trailer …
Image: Warner Bros.
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