I like taking my dad to horror movies because they scare the absolute hell out of him—and, at heart, because I'm a terrible person. But what I find really fascinating is that it's impossible to predict the ones that will really creep him out versus the ones that won't bother him in the slightest. "Annabelle: Creation" disturbed him on a fundamental level, while "IT" didn't freak him out at all.
That's why my dad is my horror movie barometer. At this point, I've seen thousands of horror movies and I know what works on me and what doesn't. I'm a cold and unfeeling bastard when it comes to gore and getting the spookies, so hearing and watching him react to scary movies helps me quit looking for subtext and themes and reminds me to enjoy being scared in the moment.
All of this is to say, I'm pretty sure "The Curse of La Llorona" creeped my dad out so hard that I HEARD the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. I definitely heard the people sitting behind us wailing "Oh Jesus, oh dear god no" a few different times which then made us laugh pretty hard. While the movie didn't quite scare me that badly, "La Llorona" is a delightfully spooky throwback to old-fashioned Hammer Horror flicks of the '60s and '70s like "The Devil Rides Out" and "Demons of the Mind."
"The Curse of La Llorona" is set in Los Angeles in 1973 and follows Anna Tate-Garcia (played by the always perfect Linda Cardellini), a recently widowed social worker with two pre-teen children. Anna gets called to a house where she finds two young boys who've been locked in a closet covered in sigils by their mother, who's frantically trying to hide them from La Llorona, or "The Weeping Woman."
La Llorona is a classic staple of Mexican folklore, passed down through generations as the story of a woman who drowned her children whose ghost was then seen crying and searching for them, bringing misfortune to all who made contact with her. This film version of the Weeping Woman is creepy and well-designed, but mostly avoids the folklore to tell its own story.
Anna getting involved with the La Llorona ends up getting the ghost to set its sights on her and her family, which means lots of LOUD NOISES and creepy imagery, but without any sense of lingering dread. At heart, the story of the Weeping Woman is a tragic one, but we never empathize with the lost spirit or feel her sense of longing. Instead we're just left with a bunch of (admittedly effective) jump scares and jolting moments.
"The Curse of La Llorona" is very loosely tied into the "Conjuring" universe, but doesn't quite have the exhausting menace of those films or the vivid imagination of the "Insidious" movies. It's a solid little flick that's content to be scary in the moment without wallowing in existential dread like some of the best horror is capable of. And it scared the crap out of my dad, so that's good enough for me.