Review – Stuber

“It’s going down tonight.” – Leon

Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista

Dolph Lundgren and Sarah Connor-jokes aside, Stuber is nothing more than a rehash of Schwarzenegger action comedies we’ve seen in the ’90s. Formula filmmaking you can predict before it even happens, with violence that tries to shock but mostly just interrupts whatever is really going on on screen.

The film already starts in the worst way possible, shakycam. Because everyone loves this so much, they’ll use this in almost every action scene to make sure you get a headache while watching this and forget about the awful jokes. L.A.P.D. partners Vic (Dave Bautista) and Sarah (Karen Gillan), who also seem to be great friends, are discussing if Vic’s grown daughter (Natalie Morales) is having anal sex, while chasing Oka Teijo (Iko Uwais), a drug dealer. After an unfortunate conclusion to this chase, everything suddenly becomes more personal for Vic.

Kumail Nanjiani plays Stu. Who drives an Uber after work. That’s where the title comes from sigh. Anyway, he works a day job in some sort of Walmart where his childish boss loves to treat him like a punching bag. Stu is also starting a small business with his best friend Becca (Betty Gilpin), who he has had a crush on since college, but doesn’t have the balls to tell her and so he joins her dream to start a spin-cycle business, called Spinster, to underline his feminine side to audiences even more. When picking up Vic, who’s just had laser surgery and crashed his car while in pursuit of Teijo, the duo goes on a drive around Los Angeles, visiting male strip clubs – because a large penis is still the gag of the century – and stereotypical gang hideouts filled with Latino gangsters in a suburban part of the city. And the most unbelievable part of it all, Stu is going along with all of this because he’s so desperate for a perfect rating from his clearly demented passenger.

Stu cries over not being able to get his longtime crush Becca’s attention. Lots of people in my half full screening, found his overacted ASMR-voice and screaming the funniest thing ever, while I just got more and more annoyed at it. Stu is also opposed to violence. On the other hand, we get Vic, the hypermasculine, clumsy cop who bumps into everything that’s on his path because of his fading eyesight. This attempt for laughs gets old very fast. But as things go, coupling these two very different men, is apparently the best thing they could think of while writing the script.

Watching a cast, who has been doing fine for the last couple of years – both critically and commercially, acting this poorly is a serious slap in the face. The way they deliver scriptwriter Trippy Clancy’s lines, is both unfunny and probably read a lot better on paper than translating it to the big screen. I hope they get back to what they were doing with their careers, and stop paying attention to car crashes like this.

As buddy-movies go, Stu and Vic get to know each other better and start to get along in their own quirky ways, with Vic embracing his sensitive side and Stu realising that it’s okay to be ultra-violent when showing off your masculinity.

Michael Dowse’s Uber commercial Stuber is an uninspired slog from the very first scene. The entire film feels out of date by at least a decade. Who knew physical comedy was still a thing in 2019? If you’re still holding on to Jim Carrey’s career from the ’90s (don’t get me wrong, I grew up with his films and loved them – but that sort of comedy died with his career – until he reinvented himself), then you’ll love everything Stuber delivers for 90 minutes. For me, this was like dying and being stuck in purgatory. Ironically, I’d give Stu one star on Uber, just like I’m doing with this film.

Originally published on

Review – Parasite

“If I had all this I would be kinder.” – Chung-sook

After winning the Palme d’Or in Cannes, the French Oscars let’s say, Sydney Film Festival was quick to reel in that line and get Parasite to screen at multiple sold out venues around the city. At the end of the festival, the film got awarded the biggest price (Best Film) and distributor Madman Entertainment decided to ride that wave of interest in the film, releasing this Korean dark comedic masterpiece just a week later in Australian cinemas.

Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sick) is a young man with not much to look forward to. He basically lives in a basement apartment with his scruffy dad Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), snappy mother Chung-sook (Hyae Jin Chang) and his clever sister Ki-jung (Park So-dam). Their tiny confined home feels too small to live in with four adults. They use free wi-fi from their neighbours and try to make some easy money by folding boxes for a pizza delivery company, until Ki-woo’s friend offers him to take over a student to tutor.

Faking a university diploma and a shameless backstory, Ki-woo introduces himself to a rich family in a dream house with the most well maintained lawn you’ve ever seen. Here he becomes the tutor to Da-hye (Ziso Jung), daughter of wealthy CEO Mr. Park (Lee Sun-kyun) and his emotionally unstable wife Yeon-kyo (Jo Yeo-jeong). Everything seems to go just as planned, until the almost perfectly executed plan starts to unravel more and more out of control.

Scriptwriters Bong Joon-ho (who also directed) and Han Jin-won have so many twists up their sleeves to make this the most entertaining and well-written film you’ll see this year. Every line gets delivered so smoothly, as if it seems like these characters are real people who are living through this story, with Jung Jae-il‘s classical score, masterfully playing in the background. The cinematography by Hong Kyung-pyo differentiates itself from a more realistic gritty style in the basement apartment, to a more dreamlike perfectly slick style when focusing on our wealthy characters. This point of view makes us look at these two very contrasting groups of people in a different way, to make it even clearer that they don’t belong in the same world. Class systems have never looked more down to earth yet perfect before.

Though Bong wants you to feel for both parties, the lines will blur at certain points and make your sympathy for anyone bounce back and forth with feverish consequences. Everyone has a sense of selfishness to them when it comes to goals, but being nice doesn’t take that much effort. The film focuses on poverty, desperation and what we are willing to do to take what should be ours. Tension between upperclass elegance and underground threat has never been more in your face. Bong (Okja) always loves to blur the lines of genre and he makes sure he hits every step on the staircase, to succeed in his efforts.

Parasite is a mite that doesn’t discriminate and will get under every moviegoer’s skin, no matter what background you come from. The power of this story, is found in the way comedy and drama rub each other in just the right way to spark a bit of thriller, that flips over into pure horror when despair and hate meet each other. This is one infestation you can’t get rid off.


Review – Yesterday

Everyone in the World Has Forgotten the Beatles. Everyone Except Jack….

Himesh Patel and Lily James

What if a global power outage caused you to get hit by a bus in the dark, and you wake up discovering there’s no sign of anything The Beatles have ever accomplished? 

There was a time when Danny Boyle was a director who’s projects were considered edgy and each one of them had their own style. What if just like in Yesterday, he all of a sudden forgot about his previous work and decided to work with screenwriter Richard Curtis (Love, Actually) to make the most dull film we’ve ever seen of him? Well, that scenario doesn’t seem too crazy..

“Yesterday” stars Himesh Patel (Eastenders) and the usually very energetic Lily James (Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again) to play a struggling singer-songwriter and his manager/love interest – yet Patel’s character is completely clueless to the moves she makes. 

Jack Malik (Patel) is ready to give up his dying career as a wannabe singer, when he gets knocked down by a bus in the middle of a global electricity outage. He wakes up in the hospital and soon finds out nobody has ever heard of the legendary band The Beatles (as well as some other brands/objects, which is clearly a perfect opportunity for the filmmakers to incorporate plenty of product placement.. Michael Bay would be proud.).

When Jack sees an opportunity to make bank, he knows just the way how to get people’s attention by writing down the lyrics of every song The Beatles have ever released – at least the ones he can remember. He claims to be the sole writer of these songs and after appearing on a morning show on local television, he gets discovered by Ed Sheeran and invited to accompany him on his upcoming world tour as the singer’s opening act. When Sheeran’s crazed agent Hannah (Kate McKinnon) approaches the rising superstar to sign him to her label, he has no idea where this rapidly progressing voyage will take him.

Not only will he discover how fame can blind you from what’s right in front of you, he will also learn the true meaning of the phrase “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side”. Girl-next-door Elly (James) was his rock from day one. Seeing her being pushed aside by his own greediness makes him realise what he’s really been missing in life: love. The film is supposed to be a very British romantic comedy with a highly original concept that leans towards fantasy. 

Yesterday could’ve been the sweet antidote in a world filled with sequels and blockbusters, but nothing is more unsatisfying than to see a well-accomplished director as Boyle screw it all up. The direction is all over the place with inter-titles and unbelievable scenes that won’t fly in the world we live in right now. It is too realistic to be set in a fantasy world and the film never pulls you in completely. Even the funny one liners and McKinnon’s delightful comedic punches as a stereotypical Hollywood agent, can’t save how ordinary “Yesterday” feels. And if you’re really here for the music, I have to disappoint you. The few music montages are not even worth the admission, since most of the performances get cut short. Just let it be.


Originally published on

Review – Toy Story 4

Yes I Can-ada!” – Duke Caboom

The announcement of a fourth Toy Story chapter, felt like an easy cash grab for Disney, after the huge success that was the concluding Toy Story 3. After seeing the first trailer and synopsis, I still wasn’t sure if this was gonna work. So being a bit cautious of seeing these beloved characters coming back nine years after we said goodbye to Andy, I can say – no need to be afraid. The toys are dusted off and look better than ever!

The film opens with a flashback to a rainy night where our toys are still happily living with Andy. Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Bo Peep (Annie Potts) are getting ready to rescue RC-racer – a radio-controlled toy car – that’s been stuck in a gutter and is about to be dragged into the sewers, if not saved in time. This is an exciting opening to get you right into the story and remind you of the bond these toys have with each other. “No toy gets left behind“, like Woody would say multiple times throughout this franchise. This scene also shows how close Woody and Bo’s relationship just was, which gets torn apart moments later when the lamp that houses her and her sheep is given away.

Almost a decade later, after Andy has passed his beloved toys to young Bonnie, we see her playing with all of them, although Woody gets pushed aside more often as time passes. He gets left in the closet with some of her baby toys. But when Bonnie has to attend her orientation day for kindergarten, Woody sees an opportunity to sneak into her backpack to look after the nervous girl. In class, a selfish kid grabs Bonnie’s art supplies and drops some in a bin, where Woody jumps in to save some of it – along with bits of rubbish – which leads to Bonnie creating Forky (soon discovered to be a toy, voiced by Tony Hale), a spork with popsicle-stick feet, googly eyes and pipe-cleaner arms. The family has a new member.

Bonnie adores Forky, but having an existential crisis, this spork knows it’s trash and feels like his only destination is the trash can, his safe haven. Woody, so longing for a purpose, takes it upon himself to keep rescuing and returning Forky, which will only get harder when Bonnie and her parents embark on a road trip in an RV. A journey on which we will meet carnival toys (Ducky and Bunny – voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), a Canadian stunt-motocross action figure (Keanu Reeves as Duke Caboom – the coolest and most breathtaking toy ever created) and a manipulative vintage doll (Christina Hendricks as Gabby Gabby) who’s stuck living in an antique store, ready to do whatever’s needed to live a blissful life. 

The emotions run high, with stunning animation and imagery all around. New characters that will win over your heart and make you laugh out loud with the funniest one liners. Did I really expect anything less, after three exceptionally strong films in this franchise?! Shame on me.

Toy Story 4 is an adventure full of subtle messages and metaphors, that carries on the legacy of its original trilogy. Disney/Pixar has done it again – a sequel that not only works as an ending, but also as a new beginning. When we get to chapter 5 (because let’s be real, this is gonna kill it at the worldwide box office), these characters will have seen so much more than just the walls of Andy/Bonnie’s room and have experienced what “letting go” really means.


Review – I Am Mother

She’ll keep you safe.

Hilary Swank is Woman

In I Am Mother, we find ourselves in a dystopian world where all human life has been wiped out. It’s Day 1 and Daughter (Clara Rugaard) is born from a frozen embryo. 6,000 days later, she’s a young woman taking personality exams and is training to be a doctor. A robot (made by the amazing Weta Workshop) voiced by Rose Byrne is her Mother. She can show a wide range of believable emotions and can move just like humans do.

The production design is the film’s highest selling point, with its Apple-ish slickness. Its scenario isn’t that groundbreaking, but it’s the way it’s executed that makes this an interesting watch. At some point, Daughter goes on a little stroll through the big bunker and decides to open the locked vault doors out of curiosity. She hears cries for help and a lost Woman (Hilary Swank) seems to have been shot and in need of care. Daughter lets her in, and soon finds out she doesn’t really like droids, in a violent show-off. Daughter finds herself caught in the middle of two worlds – will she stay loyal to her protector or is she too intrigued by the unknown and ready to throw everything she knows overboard?

Science-fiction has never looked better and that’s mainly because of Mother. The attention to detail is praiseworthy, as is its sound design. You can’t help but look at every corner just to see something new and innovative. Even the make up department deserves a high five. Clara Rugaard who plays Daughter, outshines Hilary Swank with ease. Her acting seems effortless and natural, reminiscent of Hailee Steinfeld.

I Am Mother is mostly about what it means to be good. It tries to show us how AI might try to understand kindness in a world where people only seem to want more and push themselves into extinction. Swank’s character tries to make Daughter question herself and her beliefs and shows just how powerful an outsider can be that gives you another look at life. The film is also about parenting and how every parent can fail at what they think is best for their child.

Australian director Grant Sputore‘s debut film gives us a dramatised look at humans and our love-hate relationship with artificial intelligence. Its thriller aspect on a mysterious apocalyptic event makes it all the more interesting, when figuring out what Mother’s actual intentions are.


Original review published on

SFF Review – Brittany Runs a Marathon

Screened at Sydney Film Festival 2019

Jillian Bell is Brittany

After winning the Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival at the beginning of the year, I couldn’t skip this at Sydney Film FestivalBrittany Runs a Marathonwas actually the first film I bought a ticket for at this year’s SFF. And what a great choice!

The story is loosely based on the experience of one of director/writer Paul Downs Colaizzo‘s friends. Jillian Bell, who’s not really a household name but has that “I’ve seen her in something before”-look, has just become an A-lister. Her performance as Brittany reminded me mostly of Emma Stone‘s “into the spotlight”-performance in Easy A, although this character has many more layers. Seeing Bell embody this character so well, just shows how talented she is. Former SNL-writer and supporting cast-member in films such as Rough Night, knows how to do comedy, but her balancing the familiar with the dramatic aspect, makes this character even more alive. She sells every facet of her performance, that’s worth the admission alone.

After visiting a cheap doctor she found on Yelp in pursuit of an Adderall prescription, Brittany has to change her lifestyle after getting a worrying diagnosis. Doctor’s advice: no drugs, no alcohol, be more active and eat healthier. So after a few days of drowning in tears, she decides to listen to prying neighbour Katherine’s (Michaela Watkins) advice: little goals make a big change. So instead of instantly joining her active neighbour for a run, she decides to start small and run a block herself.

After successfully running a block and then some, Brittany joins and befriends fellow running club member/neighbour Katherine and other newcomer in the club Seth (Micah Stock). All three of them are trying to shift their mindset and soon decide to run the New York City Marathon in less than a year. This could easily go for the obvious inspirational sports-film, but Colaizzo decides otherwise. Brittany fails and backtracks with the journey towards a better life and that gives us plenty of laugh-out-loud moments where we get to connect with this character. This makes everything that happens on screen so much more satisfying and relatable. Don’t we all want to change something, but have a hard time doing so?!

Brittany goes through very hard times, but what I noticed was Bell changing with the character – physically and mentally. If this is what method acting is all about, then give her an in-season-pass for all the award-ceremonies to come. Like her initial challenge, Brittany doesn’t forget to take on small challenges and make tiny changes. We get to join her on this slow but heartwarming journey. The pacing and power of the script is one of the many strengths of Brittany Runs a Marathon.

Jillian Bell is a strong performer, but her supporting cast plays a band of misfits that have trouble moving forward with Brittany. Utkarsh Ambudkar as an unexpected love interest, Alice Lee as Brittany’s roommate/best friend and Lil RelHowery as some sort of father figure, they all push her (and hold her back) from achieving her goals. Colaizzo as a first-time filmmaker has a hit on his hands and exudes confidence in his filmmaking with such modesty that it almost becomes charming – from montages to social media graphics that are done in a way it doesn’t become distracting, but fits right in with the narrative.

Not only is character Brittany a crowdpleaser who only seems at ease when she’s making other people laugh, Brittany Runs a Marathon is a genuine crowdpleaser which concluded my screening with thunderous applause, cheering and crying – me included.


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Review – Aladdin

“You seem to bring me the rough, but not the diamond.” – Jafar

Mena Massoud and Marwan Kenzari

Another year, another live-action remake of a Disney Classic. After global billion dollar box office-hit Beauty and the Beast, it didn’t take long before Disney to announce another ’90s animation was getting the treatment. Aladdin was released back in 1992, made history as being the first animated feature ever to gross more than $500 million and it was also the biggest success film that year! This lead to numerous sequels and tv-shows, until now.

British director Guy Ritchie (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) is a bold choice to direct a musical, since he’s better known for his more gritty comedies. But maybe we’ve been missing out on a hidden talent of his.. or maybe not! This is Ritchie’s most ambitious project so far, and it will all depend on the success of Aladdin, if he’ll ever get an opportunity like this again.

First of all, Aladdin has gained quite the fanbase over 2 generations of kids. So there’s the nostalgia of the animated version they’ll have to compete with. Second, a lot of media had reported on early set pictures that made everything look a bit too much Bollywood instead of keeping it more Middle Eastern. Was this project doomed from the start?

Going in with the lowest of expectations, might be the best chance this movie has to win over audiences. Aladdin is more of a “retelling” of the animated feature, co-written by Guy Ritchie himself. There are of course some similarities with the tale we’re all familiar with, and this could cause for some fans to leave the cinema empty-handed when they don’t see their favourite scene making it into this live action version. The story relies the most on its comedic timing in some of the dialogue to distract people from the horrid CGI that blurs the screen more than 80% of the time. You can tell Ritchie is inexperienced in this genre and interrupts big musical dance scenes (who are by the way, clumsy in every way) with unnecessary comedic moments that felt forced.

The other co-writer is John August (Dark Shadows), who was able to help flesh out Jasmine (Naomi Scott) a bit more, as she wants to become the next ruler of Agrabah. Another character that wants to steal the spotlight – but fails miserably – is Jafar (Marwan Kenzari). He’s too one-dimensional to come across as a threat and let’s be honest, not every cosplayer is an actor. Jasmine on the other hand is here to be shown as more than just a princess waiting to marry a prince. Scott sings two new “female empowering pop ballads” and is the true MVP of the entire film. She delivers the looks, has the acting (AND singing!) chops and commands your attention whenever appearing on screen.

Mena Massoud plays Aladdin, a humble thief turning into a hero. His chemistry with Scott is very natural. Will Smith is who everyone was so afraid of to be portraying Genie, largely due to Robin Williams‘ memorable vocal performance. He’s more known as a rapper, not a singer, but he makes this role his own instead of trying to duplicate the animated version of his character. He delivers a distressed and comedic sophisticated Genie with a certain stage presence that’ll make you laugh more than once. But even though you might’ve have thought Will Smith was painted blue, it looks like this character is almost entirely motion capture and copy-pasted into every scene. He floats on a cloudy legless lower body and most of the time looks as fake as the background.

A whole new world, maybe? But a better one.. not quite! Aladdin isn’t a total disappointment, but one day that game of roulette will end with a bang and end the cow that is Disney Classics. Leave a classic as it is, it’ll never be as good.


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Review – John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

“I still have time.” – John Wick

Para bellum – prepare for war (Latin – English). John Wick is back for more than two hours of hardcore violence with a hint of comedy spiced with exhilaratingly exhausting chases all over the globe. Chad Stahelski‘s John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is an epic pandemonium, made to satisfy fans of this franchise, but also to surprise the non-believers with his superbly choreographed fight sequences.

This chapter starts where the last film ended. Wick is running out of time and in less than an hour he will be excommunicated from the global community of assassins and can’t use any of their hideouts or facilities anymore. Every assassin in New York will be hunting him down – since the price on his head is a staggering $14 million.

If you really think assassins have the patience to wait until the High Table (the global organisation of assassins) tells you the hunt has begun, you’re in for a surprise. There’s killers everywhere and Wick bumps into one very tall man early on in a library, for some close-up combat with books. It doesn’t take long before the next battle starts in an antique store where cabinets get shattered to start a lethal knife throwing sequence with deadly consequences.

Our man knows he can’t keep battling an entire city of assassins forever, he goes looking for a way out and this is where we get to know a bit more about John himself. Anjelica Huston plays a cold-blooded woman who knows John from a previous life. After handing her a talisman he once earned for doing something terrible, he’s here to ask for a favour – sneak him out of the US. They owe him that one thing, and Wick is off to Morocco to get rid of his death sentence.

Once arrived in North Africa, we get another look at Wick’s lost past we know so little about. He has another marker/medallion in his pocket, to collect another favour. This one is destined for Sofia (Halle Berry, reminding us how bad ass she still is), whose daughter he rescued from an unspecified danger long ago. She has a pair of German shepherds who steal the show as bad guy’s genitals butchers. The cinematography here is breathtaking, especially when we get to the Sahara and see Wick climbing the dunes in his suit. It’s an action packed act that makes you ready for what you’re about to witness back in New York City.

A representative of the High Table has already arrived in the city and is here to punish those who helped Wick break the rules in the last film. The “Adjudicator” (Asia Kate Dillon) gives both the king of the Bowery’s bums (Laurence Fishburne) and director of assassins’ hotel The Continental, Winston (Ian McShane), seven days to put their affairs in order before they’re removed from their roles. Whatever that may mean. While Wick was on his way back, the Adjudicator visited some sidewalk sushi bar and hired the chef/hitman to lead a crew of assassins that will make an end to John Wick’s legacy once and for all.

Zero (Mark Dacascos) and his crew, are fans of the legendary Wick. While they fangirl in between throwing him through glass walls, they’re still here to finish him off. This final showdown happens in Winston’s all-glass administrative offices, where nothing is what it seems. Playing with cold glass walls and neon lights has never been more impressive and fun. Even when everything gets smashed to smithereens.

With every chapter, this franchise gets bolder and more impressive. This bares the question if they can keep this level of excitement going like other successful franchises, or if this is Reeves’ magnum opus as Wick?! I’d say “dulce periculum” and keep them coming. Let his legacy live on!


Review – Avengers: Endgame

“I love you 3000.” – Tony Stark

Josh Brolin is Thanos

Thanos (Josh Brolin) snapped his fingers while wearing the Infinity Gauntlet, and half of all life in the universe disappeared. That’s how last year’s Avengers: Infinity War ended and left us craving for its epic conclusion.

One year later, we are finally in the Endgame. The Russo Brothers filmed this arc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe back to back and reminds us of the “snap”, as we sit down to witness what’s coming. Unaware of the battle happening in Wakanda, a family is in for a surprise that will have some serious consequences. Not just for them, but for the entire universe that doesn’t know how to move on.

The surviving Avengers – Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), War Machine (Don Cheadle) plus brand new members Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Okoye (Danai Gurira) and marvellous Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) set off on a mission to stop Thanos once and for all. Will they find Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) in time to join them on this quest? And if so, what if it all fails in the end and make things even worse?

11 years and 21 films have been leading up to this chapter. Avengers: Endgamesays farewell to characters that have been part of our lives for such a long time, tears are inevitable. Emotions will peak, because movie fans have sat in the backseat for such a long time and got to know these heroes as if we’re part of the team. Plots will be wrapped up (even some continuity errors are being corrected, to make sure everything is correct). Everything is at stake and there is only one solution. This is it.

Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely‘s script knows just how to find that balance between science, drama and action. These guys know what they’re doing and find the heart in the midst of all the heroism. The battle of Wakanda was just a warm up – you ain’t seen nothing yet! The Avengers and all of their friends get enough screentime to be remembered with honour or to leave an everlasting mark on all of us. Our superheroes have some extra tricks up their sleeves to keep things exciting. Every one of them gets a moment to shine and the clash we witness in the third act of Endgame is one of the most perfectly constructed and visually mesmerising war scenes you will witness – maybe, EVER! There will be laughs, you will cheer and gasp and you will definitely cry.

After Endgame, there’s a whole new saga to start and an entire universe to explore. But for now, let’s just enjoy the finale to our Infinity Saga and take one last bow to salute them. Thank you Avengers. We love you 3000!


Non-spoiler review originally published on

Review – The Curse of La Llorona

“She Wants Your Children”

La Llorona is a very well known tale in Latin American folklore. It’s the story of a woman who, after her husband left, drowned her kids in a fit of rage, realised what she had done and took her own life. The legend goes that now she kidnaps children and drowns them, mistaking them for her own. Urban legends and ghost stories are always a good formula for a horror movie, so the ever expanding Conjuring Universe is cashing in on this and making it one of the best chapters we’ve seen so far.

It’s a very impressive film I must say. Having watched all the other Conjuring Universe-films (Annabelle and her sequel, The Nun and The Conjuring 1 & 2), TheCurse of La Llorona or its Australian title The Curse of The Weeping Woman is the best chapter after the very first Conjuring. The cheap scares were more effective, mostly because there’s more build-up and atmosphere, and feels more deserved.

The film starts in the 1600s with Maria (Marisol Ramirez), later known as our titular ghost, taking her children to the lake. We jump to the 1970s, and meet Anna (Linda Cardellini) – a freshly widowed social worker providing for her two children (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen and Roman Christou) – who discovers that one of her clients, Patricia (Patricia Valesquez), has her two boys locked up in a closet. The boys are quickly taken out of her custody and La Llorona strikes, passing on the curse to Anna’s children. Desperate for a solution, she turns to an eccentric priest (Raymond Cruz) to rid their house of its newly acquainted curse.

The Weeping Woman mostly takes place inside Anna’s house, but there’s more layers to the story. Personal grief while trying to take care of children who are also in mourning, the whole stigma around a single mother working, mixed-race kids, and why this Latin American curse hits them. They’re all part of the story and blend pretty well to make it one cohesive tale. Cardellini shows us a side of her acting chops we haven’t seen before, and sells it very well. After her last big film Green Book, where her part was almost non-existent, its nice to see a woman of this calibre lead a horror film and isn’t afraid to take on a different challenge. The genuine fear, but taking charge of her role as a protective mother always feels and looks real.

As far as the rest of the cast, there’s not much to talk about. Cruz as a priest is a little bit fascinating, but doesn’t have a big enough role to get excited about or to leave a lasting impression. The children are mostly screaming or thrown through rooms like dolls by La Llorona.

It might feel a little bit repetitive at times and plays out like a short film stretched out to a feature length film (best comparison I can give you is Lights Out, directed by David F. Sandberg – Shazam!). The best bits of the film definitely include Cardellini and some incredible imagery. But only being 93 minutes long, is more than enough for the story to be told. Director Michael Chaves is also taking over from James Wan to direct The Conjuring 3 (he’s still producing and writing the screenplay), so I guess this director is just getting started and will grow to a larger scale in his next feature. Just don’t rely too much on what other horror masters have done in the past, create your own urban legends and voice.