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Critics Call ‘The Conjuring’ Spinoff ‘La Llorona’ ‘Anemic’ and ‘Timid’

It's predicted to lead the weekend box office, but critics weren't impressed with the Latin American folklore riff.

“The Curse of La Llorona”

Warner Bros. / screencap

Reviews are in for the newest spinoff film inspired by “The Conjuring” universe, “The Curse of La Llorona,” and the horror film appears to be dead on arrival, at least as far as critics are concerned. “La Llorona” is the latest film to hit the formerly revered franchise begun in 2013 by director James Wan and writers Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes. That includes both “The Conjuring” movies, two “Annabelle” movies with a third on the way, and last year’s box-office hit but critical failure “The Nun,” which also has a sequel coming. Wan handed over the reigns to director Michael Chaves for “La Llorona,” which is currently the franchise’s only standalone film. From reading the reviews below — it may stay that way.

Inspired by Latin American folk tales and set in 1970s Los Angeles, “La Llorona” follows a social worker and her two children who are being haunted by a deadly spirit in the night. They turn to a mystical priest to help them root out the evil, testing their faith. The film stars Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, and Marisol Ramirez.

Although the film currently holds a 36 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, it made a healthy $2.75 million on its first night of previews and is tracking to lead the weekend box office. (Current figures predict a $19-$20 million opening weekend.) Last year’s addition to the “Conjuring” universe, “The Nun,” made $53.8 million in its opening weekend and went on to make $365.5 million worldwide despite a dismal 26 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

So it’s not all doom and gloom for “La Llorona,” which opens in theaters nationwide on April 19. Check out the first reviews below.

Richard Roeper, The Chicago Sun Times

I’ve been afflicted with “The Curse of La Llorona.”
The symptoms are all there:
• Excessive, uncontrollable eye-rolling at the overacting, clumsy plot machinations and cliché-riddled “Gotcha!” moments.
• Frequent glances at watch combined with irrational fear time has stood still, despite the brief running time of just over 90 minutes.
• Heavy sighing as putatively bright characters make incredibly stupid decisions.
• Inadvertent laughter at moments intended to be serious.

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

This weak spin-off of the ‘Conjuring’ series will haunt you for all the wrong reasons. …Plays too timid for terror and is too lazily constructed to haunt anyone’s dreams. … The movie defaults to predictable jump scares at every turn.

Monica Castillo, RogerEbert.com

The loosely tied latest entry into “The Conjuring” universe suffers from an anemic script with too little scares and an under-appreciation for who would likely be its core audience. … It’s frustratingly simple, the dialogue over-explains everything and while there are a few solid moments of suspense, there’s too much dead air in-between. … Perhaps the film’s most grievous sin is that it isn’t very scary. … The plot feels fairly mild, as if one of our traditional dishes was made without enough seasoning.

Danette Chavez, A/V Club

La Llorona becomes more of a drag than a threat; she’s the Garcias’ obnoxious roommate, the kind who maybe works unconventional hours and has lots of loud sex. That’s the premise for a scene from Scary Movie, not a scary movie. … But even as a springboard to another corner of this creepy universe, ‘The Curse Of La Llorona’ is hardly worth your time.

“La Llorona” did find a few rather illustrious fans, however. Manohla Dargis of the The New York Times called it “ticklingly funny,” and “an enjoyably old-fashioned ghost story.” Writing for Vulture, Bilge Ebiri said, “There’s a strain of dark poetry to the monster’s appearances…as if Wes Craven had decided to hijack an Andrei Tarkovsky film.”

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