Film review: Ghost story falls frightfully short on scare factor

The fright film offers very little in the way of novelty, one critic believes. (Supplied)
Updated 23 April 2019
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Film review: Ghost story falls frightfully short on scare factor

CHENNAI: Cinema has long had a strange fascination for ghost stories, particularly since the blockbuster horror movie “The Exorcist” in 1973.

But try as they might, writers and directors have consistently failed to come up with anything fresh other than the standard jump-scares and hideous female spirits with blood-red eyes and disheveled hair.

Director Michael Chaves – known for shorts such as “The Maiden” and the TV mini-series “Chase Champion” – has now transitioned to fiction features with “The Curse of La Llorona,” a fright film that offers very little in the way of novelty.

A quick opening scene of a young woman drowning her two sons to punish her straying husband, establishes a 17th century Mexican folktale.

Viewers are then transported to 1973 Los Angeles, where recently widowed child protection worker Anna (Linda Cardellini) gets involved in the case of a mother, Patricia Alvarez (Patricia Velasquez), who keeps her two boys locked up.

Anna rescues them but then finds them dead before the next dawn. They have been drowned, and Anna recalls Alvarez ranting about the supernatural La Llorona.

Anna herself has a boy and a girl, and she remembers Alvarez’s fear about the tale of La Llorona who, consumed by guilt, roamed the land in search of children to take the place of her own dead sons.

Screenwriters Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis take the easy way out by peppering the plot with coincidences and unconvincing situations.

Even the film’s 93-minute run time seems stretched with flickering bulbs, creaking doors and howling winds adding little to the scare factor.

And then there is the movie’s conflicts between science and superstition, and the church and sorcery. The link is clumsy and the film pales in comparison to some others in the genre such as “The Woman in Black,” which had a similar theme but was executed with much greater perfection.


Palestinian student film ‘Ambiance’ honored at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival

Updated 24 May 2019
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Palestinian student film ‘Ambiance’ honored at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival

  • The film is directed by Wisam al-Jafari of Palestine’s Dar Al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture
  • It follows the story of two young Palestinians trying to record a music demo inside a noisy refugee camp

DUBAI: Palestinian film “Ambiance” headed into a podium finish at the 22nd Cinéfondation Selection, the Cannes Film Festival’s top film school shorts awards, beating out more than 2,000 submissions.

The film, which is directed by Wisam al-Jafari of Palestine’s Dar Al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture, landed third place with Polish entry “Duszyczka” by Barbara Rupik.

Praised for its “humor, coolness, and extraordinary use of cinema and sound,” the short film follows the story of two young Palestinians trying to record a music demo inside a noisy refugee camp.

The top prize was handed to “Mano a Mano” by Louise Courvoisier from France, followed by “Hieu” by Richard Van from the US.

The award was presented on Thursday by a jury headed by French director Claire Denis. Cash grants of up to $16,760 were given to the winners.

Aimed at supporting new and emerging talent in filmmaking, the Cinéfondation Selection chooses fifteen to twenty short and medium-length films each year from film schools all around the world.