La Llorona is a 2019 Guatemalan drama film directed by Jayro Bustamante and starring María Mercedes Coroy, Sabrina De La Hoz, Julio Diaz and María Telón.
The legend of La Llorona is probably known to many. It has its roots in Latin America and follows a woman, who, after being abandoned, drowns her children in a fit of rage. However, when she comes to, she realises what she has done, and drowns herself as well. La Llorona is thus damned to roam earth for all eternity in search of her children.
The legend is given a fantastic twist in La Llorona. A fearsome general, who was committed violent and unspeakable atrocities while in service, is charged with genocide years later. He is frail and dying. However, even though he is charged for what he had done, he is allowed to roam free. Or so he thought. Things change when a new maid enters the household, after everyone else refuses to work for them. Is the ghost really there, or is it just a manifestation of the soldier’s deeds finally catching up to him?
This movie is fantastic. Unlike traditional horror movies that depend on jumpscares and scary visuals, La Llorona is rooted in reality. The crimes for which Monteverde is accused of are heinous. He, and people under his command, single-handedly murdered thousands of innocent people, most of which were children under 12 years. He is allowed to go free even after victims provide their testimony. This is probably the scariest part of the movie. The fact that even after someone commits such terrible crimes, they are allowed to get away with it. It speaks volumes about everything that is wrong with the justice system all over the world.
Another scary part of the movie was how much Carmen tries to shield her husband, all the while knowing the truth. She does not shy away from calling innocent women who were brutalised in her husband’s crimes every name in the book. So even when she sees Monteverde eyeing Alma, she asks her to not wear her uniform. However, she also comes to her senses and the ending is all kinds of satisfying.
However, it still does not take away from the horror that you feel throughout the movie. This is real life – it’s something that has happened time and time again. Sometimes we get to know it, sometimes it gets lost. It’s horrible to think how much suffering a few people are capable of causing.
La Llorona benefits from its slow-burn pace and great cinematography. There’s also hardly any background score – most of it is from the chanting of protestors or the music that they play. Otherwise, the movie is dark and quiet, and you wait with bated breath to know what will happen next. Additionally, the cinematography is top-notch. Every scene is beautiful, even though there’s high amounts of tension on-screen. The fact that the entire family is forced to stay at home also adds to the tension, because like them, you feel like there’s no escape.
Summing up: La Llorona
Bustamante’s La Llorona is not a horror movie. It’s not interested to scare you. It wants to open your eyes to the oppressions we turn a blind eye to. It talks about things that we are uncomfortable to acknowledge. You feel the pain, horror and anguish that these people feel. It’s strikingly dreadful to watch, and fills you with a sense of sadness. This isn’t a woman in white trying to scream at your face. This is a quiet reminder that humanity is failing everyday – and we’re probably all a part of it.
La Llorona is streaming on Shudder.
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