Feeling a lot of mid-week burnout today, so only one movie again today as I attempt to catch up on some sleep. In the meantime, I headed back to the Oscar shortlist for international feature for the second night in a row and will likely frequent over the next week.
La Llorona (2020, Dir. Jayro Bustamante)
Not to be confused with The Curse of la Llorona (Dir. Michael Chaves) from the year prior, La Llorona is a drama first and only embraces the horror genre in earnest during the third act. Instead, the film spends the majority of it’s time telling a story about a war criminal and his family living in a compound constantly surrounded by angry protesters. The audience surrogate is Natalia (Sabrina De La Hoz) a woman who skirts the line between hero and antihero. While she did nothing wrong, she doesn’t abandon her father, even after he is found guilty of genocide. This becomes a sticking point for the film, that innocence needs to be earned, and isn’t awarded to passivity.
Rather than any traditional ghost story, La Llorona is mostly content to focus on the characters with hauntings only peppered in. The subversion of the modern horror genre is exemplified by the entire lack of jump scares. When the film decides to turn on the horror it does so in a completely earned and unsettling way. The ghosts haunting acts as a mirror, reflecting the deeds of the war criminal on him and those who stood by his side. In the final haunting, the ghost justifies herself by showing that she could never do worse than the crimes that brought her to the family. By saving most of the scares for this one moment, it hammers in the terror of these events. The horror is used as an exclamation point to create an excellent drama that just happens to be named for a ghost.