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In the picture

The Curse of La Llorona is too generic to make an impact; Us spins a fascinating yarn but struggles with plausibility.

In the picture

The Curse of La Llorona**

*ing: Linda Cardellini, Sean Patrick Thomas, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velasquez

Directed by Michael Chaves

A Mexican folklore comes to cinematic life in The Curse of La Llorona, a fairly standard horror flick that fails to make the most of its creepy premise. Offered as the sixth instalment in The Conjuring universe, the supernatural thriller stars Linda Cardellini as a social worker who, while pursuing a child endangerment case, ends up facing an evil spirit.

INTHEPIC_2Anna (Cardellini), a single mother of two young children – son Chris (Roman Christou) and daughter Samantha (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) – is assigned the task to investigate the case of her client Patricia Alvarez (Patricia Velasquez), who appears to have locked up her two sons. An attempt to help the boys goes awfully awry, revealing the presence of a supernatural entity that subsequently decides to target Anna’s own children. Anna must figure out how to defeat the malevolent being in order to save her family and survive this ordeal.

The Curse of La Llorona is built on an intriguing legend with a lot of potential for spooky storytelling, but the film doesn’t quite manage to capitalize on the eeriness of its myth. Instead, it all unfolds like a typical horror episode and leads to a predictable, unexciting ending; there are no surprising twists and turns along the way. From the standard ghost-like appearance of the titular La Llorona to the film’s overreliance on startling jump scares, the movie repeatedly falters and fails to offer anything exceptional.

Cardellini is fairly good in the lead role, as is the supporting cast in their respective parts. But the actors simply don’t have any strong, thrilling material to work with. The viewer never fears for the characters or feels any sort of dread over their predicament despite the fact that they’re basically being chased by a demon.

Pretty much everything about the project is too generic to really make an impression. Michael Chaves does display the occasional stylistic flair in his directorial debut, but he generally plays it too safe. As a result, the film is neither scary, nor memorable, and is ultimately just a waste of what could have been a compelling scenario.

 

Us***

*ing: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss

Written and directed by Jordan Peele

INTHEPIC_3It’s almost surprising how well the horror genre suits Jordan Peele. The comedian-turned-director made quite a mark with Get Out in 2017, and he continues to impress with his second offering, Us.The film tells the story of a family whose vacation takes a nightmarish turn when their doppelgangers suddenly show up.

Adelaide (a fantastic Lupita Nyong’o), her husband Gabe (Winston Duke), and children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) visit their family’s lake house for a holiday. But Adelaide is apprehensive about a trip to the beach, since she encountered a doppelganger of herself in the area when she was a child.

Her fears are realized when doppelgangers of the whole family – dressed in red jumpsuits and brandishing golden scissors (guaranteed to be the go-to look this Halloween) – show up at the house and start terrorizing the occupants.

Peele creates an intense environment and a creepy ambience that immediately sucks viewers in and confronts them with the sheer horror of the situation. Plus, he skilfully uses the plot to comment on classism, shedding light on the plight of the marginalized.

INTHEPIC_4The premise, however, works better on a metaphorical level than on a realistic one, since it really doesn’t hold up to even minor scrutiny. The implausible elements get more distracting the more we delve into the film’s universe, where the ideas are intriguing but the mechanics are never fully explained. A twist at the end just raises more questions which detract from the ending’s emotional impact.

The cast though is absolutely stellar. Nyong’o in particular is so terrific that her performance leaves you hoping she’ll get some attention this award season.

On the whole, this intense thriller benefits from its interesting ideas, fascinating visuals, and the remarkable acting of its fantastic cast. Its first half is stronger than its seconds, but Peele’s filmmaking is impressive throughout. And while it may leave us with some questions that we wish it would have answered, Us still makes for a fairly rewarding ride.

 

Rating system:  *Not on your life  * ½ If you really must waste your time  ** Hardly worth the bother  ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only  *** Good enough for a look see  *** ½ Recommended viewing  **** Don’t miss it  **** ½ Almost perfect  ***** Perfection

Sameen Amer

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