MAY 17, 2011
All I asked was that The Wailer II (aka La Llorona II) was better than the original, and it was. Proving that replacing the entire cast and crew isn’t always a bad thing, the sequel is professionally made, slightly more exciting, and a different kind of movie entirely, eschewing the original’s “kids in a cabin” motif for a sort of mystery, as two guys track down La Llorona, who has possessed the girl from the first movie.
And that was the biggest surprise, it actually was a direct sequel! Since the cast and crew was all different, I figured this was just a case of someone slapping on a sequel title to an unrelated movie, since there are a bunch of La Llorona movies floating around (this is the fourth I’ve seen, I think; even my wife was like “How many of these can they possibly make?”). But no, it actually starts off quickly summing up the events of the first movie via newspaper clippings, as the voiceover from the father of one of the girls informs us that his daughter is now being possessed by La Llorona and he needs to find/save her before it’s too late.
Luckily for us, he’s a lousy tracker, and thus we get a death scene every 15 minutes or so. None of them are particularly exciting, but at least they are spread out (unlike in the first film, where everything was saved for the final 20 minutes or so). And they have surprisingly gruesome aftermaths; you don’t see much while they are being killed but when the bodies are found you see them all literally torn to pieces, with guts strewn about and everything. Again, considering the first movie’s lame-ass slashing makeup, this was a welcome surprise; it didn’t really fit the movie’s otherwise serious tone, but anytime a fat guy’s head is shown a few feet away from his torso, I’m entertained.
Another surprise (spoiler!) is that the father is killed at the one hour mark, after a creepy scene where he momentarily gets seduced by La Llorona (in the body of his daughter), grabbing her boob and what not. Hey-o! But while it was certainly a good shock moment, it weakened the overall story. For starters, that means that the partner, a cab driver who was helping the father get around the city and filling him in on some of the legend, is suddenly promoted to hero, even though he has no personal attachment to saving the girl. Furthermore, right before all of this goes down, the cab driver (Chabba – please, screenwriters, never name a character Chabba in your Spanish movies, because it just sounds like Jabba) discovers that the father can see the murders that his daughter is committing, and her latest victim happened to be Chabba’s uncle. There could have been a great conflict with Chabba wanting to just kill her out of revenge while the dad wanted to save her and just vanquish the spirit, but by killing him before Chabba even knew that his uncle was dead (and then having Chabba go ahead and finish the father’s ritual to save the daughter anyway) rendered the third act largely un-involving. Everyone’s either dead or unrelated to anyone else, so there’s no reason to get invested in the outcome. Maybe if it happened all in one scene, it would work, but the dad dies, our now-hero goes around, sees another priest, enlists a buddy to help him, and then goes back 15-20 minutes later to finish the job - it's very clunky.
When La Llorona (I really want to write a “My Sharona” parody about her) isn’t killing folks, the movie is mostly just Chabba and the father driving around, talking to priests and fortune tellers and such, providing each other/the audience with loads of local superstitions and flavor. I’m hardly the type of guy who dreams of traveling to far away locations and learning about their history (unless it’s Elder Scrolls and there’s a possible achievement in there for me), but I always like it when a horror movie actually inserts the local culture into the narrative or even just the backdrop. So many horror movies either fake their locales (i.e. Vancouver or Bulgaria for some New England state), or go out of their way to exist in generic “Anytown” areas, and I never got why. I suppose the idea is that you can’t identify with Boston if you’re from Missouri, but I think that’s rubbish. Halloween 4 and 5 scared the shit out of me; to this DAY I’ve never stepped foot in Illinois (or even Utah, where they were shot). As long as the local customs are explained in some way so that they aren’t impenetrable to foreign audiences (some Asian horror movies are guilty of this), then I think they should embrace what’s at their disposal.
They shouldn’t try to be funny though. Humor definitely does not translate well, and the attempts here are thus painfully bad. When the police ask for the father’s address he snarls “Portland, Oregon. You want the zip code? 90210!”, and there’s an extended, awkward, and yes, unfunny bit where Chabba and his uncle go through the “Who sings that song?” “(whatever artist)” “Let’s keep it that way!” routine. Even the stereotypes weren’t funny; normally I’d laugh at a big fat guy expressing his desire to get tacos at what appears to be like 2 am, but it just seemed almost insulting here.
The poorly designed DVD gives an option of English or Spanish, but for the life of me I couldn’t tell if one was dubbed while the other was native; the English version SOUNDED dubbed at times, but the lips seemed to match up better than they did on the Spanish one, so I don’t know. I assume they didn’t actually shoot the damn thing twice and put it on the disc? At any rate, the only other “extras” are some trailers and a photo gallery, so that’s the only area where the original had it beat – no self-congratulating making of on this one! I wouldn’t have actually minded hearing about the production’s origins; I honestly can’t recall the last time two movies in a series had totally different crews and even sub-genres, yet were actually tied together. What’s next, a Dark Harvest sequel that actually refers to one of the others?
What say you?