SEPTEMBER 21, 2010
The nice thing about short movies is that even if they’re not very good, I can’t say they wasted too much of my time. La Llorona (aka The Cry) is under 80 minutes with credit sequences (meaning the actual movie is about 70), which meant I had time to do something else after it was done. Thanks, movie! Sorry you weren’t very good, but no harm no foul and all that.
It also helped that I’ve never heard of the titular myth before. I’m guessing if I was a big fan of the legend, I’d be pretty pissed that the movie was so underdeveloped and lacking in full-on La Llorona scenes, but it sort of worked as an introduction, using it as a backdrop to a police thriller about the disappearance/deaths of many children. It’s also the rare film of this type to be set in New York City, which gave it a bit of a unique flair. But as the length might suggest, there’s just not a lot here. Our hero is a cop who is haunted by his wife murdering his son, and our heroine is a mother who is trying to protect her kid from the spirit. And that’s about it. It’s one of the most straight-forward modern horror movies I can recall, which is odd when you consider it’s using a 500 year old myth as its central point.
And we know it’s 500 years old because the movie opens in “Mexico, 1500 A.D.”. But we just see a quick flash of a kid in the water, and some mountains, and then they go to present day New York. It’s the least helpful and most pointless flashback opening I’ve ever seen, especially since we find out more about it from dialogue later in the movie anyway.
Speaking of dialogue, I did like one scene, where the cop and his Spanish speaking partner (who looks like Christopher Lee) visit a medium who tells them (us) the whole backstory and what they have to do. Usually in these sort of scenes, the non-English speaking person will suddenly speak the most crucial lines in English, or the English person will suddenly be able to understand the other language. But they don’t do either here, the partner translates everything she says. It’s probably just another way to pad the running time, but it’s also a bit more realistic and less corny.
Also, the myth is too damn confusing. The basic story goes, a woman found out her husband was cheating on her, so she drowned her kids out of spite, and now her spirit wanders around seeking for her children. So why aren’t her kids the angry spirits? She seems to have screwed herself over on that one. And why can’t she find them? As a result, it becomes sort of an all-purpose ghost story – kids that misbehave are told that they will be taken away by La Llorona; women scorned invoke her to get revenge, etc. Making matters worse, she goes after dudes in the movie, killing the partner and a couple of bums, all of whom have less than healthy attitudes toward women, sure, but as far as we know, La Llorona never went after the guy who cheated on her, so why did she add this sort of “defender of wronged women” thing to her repertoire? It gives the movie a random feel, like the deaths are just there to spice up the proceedings even though they don’t really have much to do with what we are told about the myth.
Then again, maybe the director just couldn’t pick a path to go by. As we learn in the extra features, the myth has many contradictory versions; we see “man on the street” interviews with folks, and one will say “she’s very pretty, and all in white”, and the next will remark on her ugly features and black clothing. But this shouldn’t have given her free reign to reflect all of these ideas in her film (maybe that’s why we never see Llorona in the film – it would be impossible to depict all of her different appearances, unless they did some sort of Scanner Darkly effect). We also hear more about the different ways the story can be used to scare people, which just drives home the most ironic thing about the whole movie – it’s a ghost that will go after pretty much anyone, and yet it’s still not effective or scary at any given moment. It’s well made, and like I said, too short to really get anyone riled up, but it’s just weightless. I just watched it and I’m already having trouble remembering the first 20 minutes or so.
My advice – if you really want to see a movie involving mothers that kill their kids (Andrea Yates and some others are name-checked in this movie), stick with Baby Blues. That movie is gold. This one’s, I dunno, a nice bronze.
What say you?