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Movie Review

Many a danger hides in Los Angeles, circa 1973. Anna Tate-Garcia has seen enough of them to make a weaker woman’s blood freeze. Drugs. Abuse. Violence. Death. Closed doors hiding terrible secrets. The smile of a child obscuring eyes filled with fear.

Still, as horrible as these issues are, Anna understands them. She’s a social worker, after all: She’s been trained to handle these complex problems with practiced compassion. She’s dealt with them most of her adult life. Not much surprises Anna these days.

So when she walks into the home of frantic, frightened Patricia Alvarez and finds her two kids locked in a closet, Anna knows what’s going on. She sees the wounds on the boys’ arms. When she asks them to come out of the closet, they initially refuse. “She’ll hurt us,” one says.

Anna’s years of experience lead her to one obvious explanation: Patricia is abusing her boys. She’s clearly stressed. She might even have some mental health issues. And while the woman seems to love her children, Anna has just one option: remove the kids from the mother's custody, at least temporarily.

“Tonight you guys are safe,” she tells them. “I promise you.”

The next morning, the boys are dead—drowned in a nearby drainage ditch. Suspicion falls on Patricia, but the mother¬—nearly mad with grief and rage—knows the real culprit: La Llorona.

From time immemorial, people in Mexico and Latin America have whispered of this spectral woman in white, the ghost of a grieving mother who drowned her own children and is always on the lookout for more. This folktale, Patricia knows, is no folktale. Her children saw La Llorona. Heard her cry. Felt her burning tears. And now, La Llorona taken them, just as she’s taken so many others before.

But while La Llorona may be the culprit, she’s not the cause. No, the old gal’s just doing what she does. For Patricia, the real killer is Anna. Unbelieving Anna, who didn’t understand the spiritual terror lurking in her house.

But perhaps the social worker—who’s a mother herself—will have reason to believe soon enough.

Anna’s used to dealing with horrors that live in a world of fact, of evidence, of empirical reality. But what if an unreal horror hides in the shadows? Standing by the door, just waiting for an invitation to come in?

Positive Elements

Listen, it’s not easy to deal with a seemingly unstoppable supernatural monster that wants to steal and kill your kids. But when La Llorona comes for Anna’s children, the mother shows some impressive moxie. She fights like the dickens to save her children, enlisting a former priest named Rafael Olvera to help her. Together, the two put themselves at some serious risk.

Chris and Samantha, Anna’s children, are no less courageous (if a little clueless at times). Even though La Llorona is hunting them, they muster up their courage to deal with the monster, even when the adults in their lives are inconveniently unconscious.

Spiritual Content

La Llorona is a legendary character very familiar in Mexico and much of the Latin world, a ghost condemned to walk the earth because of her horrific sins. But while the traditional legend features the religious rebar of Christianity, some experts believe the core of the story actually predates Christianity in the New World. They point, for instance, to the Aztec goddess Ciuacoatl, who would walk about in white, weeping … and was a seriously bad omen to boot.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that in the film, the spiritual wards used to battle the monster are a bit mixed, too.

When Anna first seeks information, and then help, in dealing with La Llorona, she turns to the Catholic Church. (We see her talking with an understanding priest in both the sanctuary and in his office, both scenes festooned with religious stained-glass imagery.) The priest says that the church does work with folks who might be able to help her deal with La Llorona … but contacting them would require time and a deeper inquiry. And, clearly, Anna and her family don’t have much time.

So he points her to Rafael, a former priest who who’s become a “curandero,” a shaman of sorts who uses traditional medicine and, perhaps, folk magic. (When I talked with Raymond Cruz, the guy who plays Rafael, he described his character as a “medicine man.”) When we first see Rafael, he’s burning sage over believers, a ritual of purification.

When Anna asks for confirmation that he turned away from the Catholic church he says, “On the Church? Yes. On God? Never.” To deal with La Llorona, the curandero blends traditional Catholic elements of supernatural warfare (prayer, Scripture, crosses and La Llorona’s own sanctified tears—the latter two of which have massive impact on the monster) with more pagan trappings (charms, candles, sage, etc.).

In order to determine whether La Llorona is haunting the house, and the level of power she’s exerting, for instance, he rubs unbroken chicken eggs along the doorways of Anna’s home. When done, Rafael cracks one open to reveal black gook inside—but then other eggs used in the ceremony begin to spin and explode, spraying blood.

Fire trees—supposedly witnesses to La Llorona’s initial act of murder—hold special significance. Accordingly, a crucifix has been carved from the wood of one such tree, while shavings and ashes from another are spread in front of a threshold, supposedly keeping La Llorona at bay.

The priest offers Anna a crucifix, which the skeptical mom refuses. A closet door is covered in drawn-on/painted-on eyes, perhaps as a ward against La Llorona. We see crosses and crucifixes elsewhere, as well as the outside and inside of churches.

La Llorona is quite ghostly, appearing and disappearing at will. But she’s also able to take on a much more tangible, corporeal form when she wants to. And if her influence is strong enough, La Llorona also has the power to kind of hypnotize people, causing them to follow her mindlessly. We also hear that someone has prayed to La Llorona.

Sexual Content

According to legend, La Llorona was once a beautiful woman who seriously freaked out when she caught her husband with another lady.

A girl, who's about 8, takes a bath a couple of times, and we see her from the shoulders up.

Violent Content

Outside of those aforementioned exploding eggs, there’s actually not much blood here. But the scary imagery and jump scares? Yeesh.

In flashback, we see La Llorona’s first two victims¬: her own children. One stumbles upon his mother as she’s drowning his brother, forcing the boy's face underwater. The second child tries in vain to run, but La Llorona catches him before the scene cuts to black.

Other children are also drowned. We see their corpses underneath sheets (the hand of one victim is visible). Other folks are almost drowned elsewhere, including children. One girl nearly loses her life in a bathtub. A swimming pool becomes the site of another attack, which also includes an underwater struggle and the near-death of the folks involved.

Spiritual attacks send various characters flying through rooms and into ceilings. Doors are slammed, and people are dragged. La Llorona has the ability to burn those whom she touches (apparently via her tears), and we see her use this ability quite often: People scream in pain and terror when she grabs them, and several characters bear the wounds of these encounters.

Someone’s shot in the shoulder but survives. Someone’s stabbed in the chest and does not. People are supernaturally choked. We hear that Anna’s husband died some time ago. Moms are accused of child abuse.

Crude or Profane Language

One s-word and three or four misuses of God’s name.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Anna and an old coworker drink some wine with dinner. Anna jokes that she needs a big glass to cope with the day she’s had.

Other Negative Elements

Both Chris and Samantha (Anna’s kids, you’ll remember) disobey some important authority figures. Had they been more mindful, this whole movie could’ve been avoided or, at the very least, shortened. (Strangely, they’re reluctant to tell their mother about who’s hurting them, too … perhaps a cinematic nod to real-world problems in which children often hide abuse from those who could help.)


The Curse of La Llorona is part of what’s now being called The Conjuring Extended Universe. And with that in mind, let’s give credit where credit is due: The Conjuring films (with a couple of exceptions) are as “good” as you could hope for R-rated horror movies.

Obviously, in the context of “R-rated horror” and family friendliness, this is not exactly a ringing endorsement, and we’ll get to that later. But here’s what I mean.

The Curse of La Llorona is rated R. But the explicit content we see on screen doesn’t seem to technically require it. We see plenty of scares and violence, but comparatively little blood. There’s a smattering of bad language; but we're just as likely to hear folks pray to God, not just use His name as a swear word. In fact, this movie—like many others in the series—treats faith seriously. Supernatural evil demands a supernatural response. As actor Raymond Cruz told me during an interview (a portion of which I published on my own blog), “The only way you can combat darkness is with light.”

But The Curse of La Llorona suggests light isn’t just found in the light of Christianity (though it’s certainly there, too), but in more mystical and magical resources as well.

And when it comes to that supernatural evil—well, it’s a doozy here. La Llorona isn’t so much a ghost a she is a demon, seeking to drag her young victims to oblivion. And the film’s focus on children here is particularly disturbing. Let’s face it: Parents have enough to worry about with their kids now. They don’t need a bogeyman to ratchet up their anxiety even more.

So while the Conjuring franchise seems to be losing steam and each succeeding movie seems to have fewer genuine scares, there’s plenty here that could keep adults up at night, much less kids who shouldn’t be seeing R-rated horror movies anyway.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range



Linda Cardellini as Anna Tate-Garcia; Roman Christou as Chris; Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen as Samantha; Raymond Cruz as Rafael Olvera; Marisol Ramirez as La Llorona; Patricia Velasquez as Patricia Alvarez; Sean Patrick Thomas as Detective Cooper; Tony Amendola as Father Perez


Michael Chaves ( )


Warner Bros.



Record Label



In Theaters

April 19, 2019

On Video

August 6, 2019

Year Published



Paul Asay

Content Caution

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