La Llorona aka “the weeping woman” is a well-known piece of Latin American folklore, dating back to the conquistador days of the 16th century. Due to last year’s Conjuring spinoff, The Curse of La Llorona, the legend has gained a bit more notoriety.
However, Shudder’s new original film La Llorona has very little connection, or in common with the latest entry in The Conjuring universe. It does still deal with the centuries-old myth, but a in very different manner. This film also feels a bit more authentic, given that it’s set in Guatemala and the all the dialogue is in Spanish.
Real World Turmoil
Set in Guatemala, the film opens with a general whose facing trial for alleged genocide that he used against the Mayan natives while in power. With his old age and failing health, he’s becoming ever more unhinged, and his blindly obedient wife and skeptically growing daughter are left to pick up the pieces.
He was known for his very harsh treatment of Mayans and other minorities, but claims he just wanted to create a national identity. His own prejudice is seen in the way that he looks down upon his household employees, (all of whom happen to be indigenous peoples), and even exploits them sexually (something his wife just agreed to look the other way about).
Just as his trial is underway and he’s forced to answer for his crimes (while his daughter and granddaughter are forced to confront what he’s done), a new employee arrives at his house, who brings along something very mysterious.
The Symbolic Weeping Woman
Despite its title referring to a famous ghost story, the film itself exists very much on the fringe of the supernatural, with very little overt paranormal phenomena. On a narrative level, this works to the film’s advantage, but on an audience-pleasing level it might not.
What the film does very effectively is using the myth of La Llorona as the reckoning for the horrific crimes the general has committed. There’s a real sense of cosmic justice, not present in many other adaptations of the legend, most of whom just have the vengeful spirit targeting innocent children. Here, the weeping woman provides a voice for so many of the voiceless oppressed.
However, those who are expecting a traditional supernatural thriller or ghost story may be a bit disappointed. But if you know not to expect that, you can better appreciate the film’s pacing, nuance, and social commentary. It’s not your typical ghost story, but it’s quite bold and has a lot to say.
La Llorona is streaming exclusively on Shudder