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

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.

What We Are Reading Today: The Body Papers by Grace Talusan

Updated 24 May 2019

What We Are Reading Today: The Body Papers by Grace Talusan

Grace Talusan’s memoir The Body Papers bravely explores her experiences with sexual abuse, depression, cancer, and life as a Filipino immigrant, supplemented with government documents, medical records, and family photos.

“Much of Talusan’s memoir will be familiar to any reader of immigrant narratives. But what renders the book memorable — perhaps what earned it the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing — is the author’s unstinting self-portrait,” said Luis H. Francia in a review published in The New York Times.

“We see Talusan clearly in the present, warts and all, precisely through the stark, lucid representations of herself in the past. Having moved with her family from the Philippines to suburban America when she was two years old, Talusan recalls complex feelings of loss, displacement and adjustment,” the critic added.

A review published in said: “The generosity of spirit and literary acuity of this debut memoir are a testament to her determination and resilience. In excavating and documenting such abuse and trauma, Talusan gives voice to unspeakable experience, and shines a light of hope into the darkness.”