The story of La Llorna, the weeping woman, is well-known in Mexico. Details, such as the color of her dress or the exact date of her death, might change depending on geography and teller, but the basic folklore remains the same: There once was a woman who drowned her children in a fit of grief and jealousy. Afterward she committed suicide but was damned to wander the world looking for other children. Yours, perhaps, if they were disobedient. If so, they too would breathe water. Such is The Curse of La Llorona, and such is the context of the new horror movie that is set in the ever expanding The Conjuring universe.
Last month at SXSW we were able to sit down with director Michael Chaves and stars Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, and Patricia Velasquez. During our conversation, we learned that for many still, La Llorona is more than a story, but a personage worthy of big screen fidelity.
“She’s ingrained in our culture so do deeply,” Cruz says. “We learn about her as little children, and our grandparents or our parents learned about it as little children, so she’s been around for a very long time.” He adds that “it’s fear, an encapsulated fear. And it’s not the unknown like the boogeyman. We know her origins and know what she’s capable of.”
Velasquez more than agrees saying, that for herself, she considers La Llorona real, or at least real for the people of Mexico and a larger Latin community since she herself was initially born in Venezuela before moving to Mexico.
“It doesn’t matter which country,” Velasquez says, “this is just not a legend, it’s just not a ghost, it’s not a story, it’s not a folktale; La Llorona is real, and she doesn’t stop when you cross the border. She goes with you everywhere. That was the first thing Michael said when we met, to do right by La Llorona.”
In the film they attempt to do so, as La Llorona goes from haunting Velasquez’s onscreen family to going after Cardellini’s children, often to violent results as she pushes past a concerned mother to take her prey down to the nearest body of water.
Talking about the brutality of the action sequences in which her character of Anna does battle with a ghost, Cardellini says, “It was something I didn’t expect about doing a film like this…The idea of coming home at night and being emotionally exhausted, because you’re always screaming, yelling, crying, chasing, running, pounding, and I’d come home and the next morning my arms are sore, I’d get bruises on my hand. The scenes where I’m getting dragged down the hall or thrown against the wall, I really liked to do as much of that as I possibly could and then the next morning you pay for it.” She adds though it is in service of creating a creepy affectation that will follow you home. It did, after all, follow her.
“You become hyper-aware of sound,” Cardellini says. “I found that after I came home from shooting, every sound sort of makes you jump, and I think that’s because you hear her before she gets you. You hear her crying.”
To Cruz, it is about sharing that fear with a larger audience. Comparing their movie to how Pixar’s Coco brought a larger audience to the Day of the Dead festival, he says, “This is another gift from the Latin culture to the rest of the people.”
The gift unwraps this Friday when The Curse of La Llorona spreads to theaters nationwide.