Marking the sixth entry into the ever-growing franchise spurred on by ‘The Conjuring’, ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ is an American supernatural horror film directed my Michael Chaves in his directorial debut. Starring Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz and Patricia Velasquez, the film premiered at the South by Southwest film conference on March 15, 2019 and received mostly mixed to positive response from critics.
‘The Curse of La Llorona’ follows social worker Anna Garcia (Cardellini), a widow raising her two children in 1970s Los Angeles. When she is called to check in on one of her prior cases, she finds signs of foul play. As she further digs into the discrepancies of the case, she finds striking similarities between it and the terrifying supernatural occurrences haunting her family. With the help of a local faith healer, she discovers that La Llorona has latched herself onto Anna and will stop at nothing to take her children. Also known as the Weeping Woman, La Llorona is a female ghost in Latin American folklore who lost her children and hence causes misfortune to those nearby. As per legend, in her search for her lost children, she takes other abandoned children and makes them her own. Ultimately turning to mysticism, Anna attempts to fight the evil entity, with the help of a disillusioned priest.
As is evident from the aforementioned synopsis, ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ contains all the regular horror flick cliches. Therefore, for fans of cheap-thrill inducing horror movies categorized by jump scares and shock value, the film may prove to be a worthwhile watch. Holding that thought, one can even make the converse point that the chances of non-fans of the genre liking the film is almost nil. Hence, in the forthcoming list I have tried to single out films which have in some way or the other defined the widely popular genre of horror. Here’s the list of best movies similar to ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ that are our recommendations. You can watch several of these movies like ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
10. The Conjuring (2013)
Well, this comes as a no-brainer! ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ is the sixth addition to the massively successful franchise which was originally launched due to the unprecedented success of ‘The Conjuring’. Directed by James Wan on a meager budget of 20 million dollars, the film went on to gross over 319 million. Starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are real life paranormal investigators and authors associated with prominent cases of haunting, the film follows the couple as they come to the assistance of the Perron Family, which is experiencing increasingly disturbing events in their farmhouse in Rhode Island in 1971.
In her review following the Los Angeles Film Festival, Sheri Linden of The Hollywood Reporter said, “With its minimal use of digital effects, its strong, sympathetic performances and ace design work, the pic harks backs in themes and methods to The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror, not quite attaining the poignancy of the former but far exceeding the latter in sheer cinematic beauty.”
9. Sisters (1972)
Directed by “movie-brat” Brian De Palma, ‘Sisters’ is a criminally underrated psychological horror-slasher film. Starring Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, and Charles Durning, the plot focuses on a French Canadian model whose separated conjoined twin is suspected of a brutal murder witnessed by newspaper reporter in Staten Island. Riddled with prominent allusions to the works of Alfred Hitchcock, ‘Sisters’ marks a significant moment in the career of Brian De Palma, who would then go on to make several graphically violent thrillers. Upon its release in 1972, the film received rave reviews from critics who noted its adept performances and prominent use of homage. The movie comes with the “conjoined” recommendation of De Palma’s 1976 horror film ‘Carrie’.
8. The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
Co-written and directed by recent Oscar awardee Guillermo Del Toro, ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ is a 2001 Gothic horror film starring Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, and Federico Luppi among others. Set in Spain, during the final year of the Spanish Civil War, the film follows a magic-realistic story-line of a remote Spanish orphanage and its operators Casares and Carmen. With the backdrop of the politics of the Spanish Civil War, the film tells an eerily familiar story of an orphan boy named Carlos. Just the previous entry, this too comes clubbed with the recommendation of Del Toro’s thematically similar more successful 2006 film ‘Pans Labyrinth’. The New York Times film critic A.O. Scott very rightly states while writing about ‘The Devil’s Backbone’, “The director, Guillermo Del Toro, balances dread with tenderness, and refracts the terror and sadness of the time through the eyes of a young boy, who only half-understands what he is witnessing.”
7. Psycho (1960)
Directed by none other than the Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock, ‘Psycho’ is a legendary psychological horror film starring Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, John Gavin, Vera Miles, and Martin Balsam. Though seemingly very different from ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ with regards to its plot and artistic value, oddly enough, both these films explore a common theme of unorthodox mother-offspring dynamics. While ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ mythologizes it through an evil entity, ‘Psycho’ delves deep into the psychotic mind of its infamous antagonist Norman Bates, and his Oedipus-like, unhealthy obsession with his deceased mother. Presently, ‘Psycho’ is considered one of Hitchcock’s best films, and praised as a major work of cinematic art by international film critics and scholars. Apologies for being monotonous, but I can’t help but recommend ‘Rebecca’— another bone-chilling thriller by Alfred Hitchcock, dealing with the different forms of the feminine identity.
6. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Often considered to be the first slasher film, ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ is a 1974 American horror film starring then relatively unknown cast of Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow and Gunnar Hansen. Produced and directed by Tobe Hooper on shoestring budget of 140,000 dollars, the film went on to be a massive box office success, raking in a whopping 30 million dollars (presently equivalent to 150 million). The film follows a group of friends who fall victim to a family of cannibals while on their way to visit an old homestead. Although it was marketed as a true story to attract a wider audience and as a subtle commentary on the era’s political climate, its plot is entirely fictional. Presently, the film is widely considered to be one of the best and most influential horror films in cinematic history.
5. The Omen (1976)
It’d be a crying shame to not mention ‘The Omen’ while talking about horror movie franchises. Directed by Richard Donner, the film concerns a young child replaced at birth by American Ambassador Robert Thorn unbeknownst to his wife Remick, after their own newborn son gets murdered at the hospital. Soon, the couple find themselves surrounded by mysterious deaths, unaware of the fact that the replaced child who they lovingly name Damien, is in fact the Antichrist. Starring Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Harvey Spencer Stephens, Billie Whitelaw, Patrick Troughton, Martin Benson, and Leo McKern, ‘The Omen’ received widespread critical acclaim while simultaneously managing to be a massive box office success resulting in the subsequent establishment of ‘The Omen’ franchise.
4. Audition (1999)
Serving as a fantastic example of the ‘Asian Extreme’ brand of film-making, ‘Audition’ is a Japanese horror film directed by maverick Takashi Miike, based on the 1997 novel by Ryu Murakami. The terrifying, consciously misogynist plot follows widower Shigeharu Aoyama, whose son suggests that he find a new wife. Agreeably, Aoyama sets up a bogus audition with a friend to meet a potential new partner in life. After interviewing several women, Aoyama shows special interest in Asami, who responds well to him. However, soon after they begin their courtship, Asami’s dark past begins to affect their relationship. Since its release, ‘Audition’ has appeared on several lists of the best horror movies ever made, and has had an influence on other horror movies and directors including Eli Roth and the Soska Sisters.
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3. The Shining (1980)
Produced and directed by the visionary Stanley Kubrick, ‘The Shining’ is a horror film based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel by the same name. Jack Nicholson stars as the recovering alcoholic, aspiring writer Jack Torrance, who accepts a position as the off-season caretaker of the isolated historic Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. Wintering over with Jack are his wife Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duvall) and young son Danny Torrance (Danny Loyd).
Later, Danny is seen possessing psychic abilities referred to as “the shining” which enables him to look into the grim, macabre past of the hotel. History repeats itself when following a winter storm, Jack’s sanity deteriorates due to the influences of supernatural forces that inhabit the hotel, placing his wife and son in danger. Releasing to mixed reviews in 1980, ‘The Shining’ has since gained momentum to eventually establish itself as one of the best and most important horror movies of all time.
2. The Exorcist (1973)
No, ‘The Exorcist’ misses out on the top spot this time. Directed by William Friedkin, the 1973 supernatural horror film ‘The Exorcist’ is not only a cinematic milestone, but a cultural one as well. Upon its release, audiences flocked to the theaters, waiting in long lines in winter weather, with many doing it more than once. It is the kind of film that accentuates the careers of each and every individual attached to it. Ironically, the film was rejected by many major stars of the era, leading to the casting of then little known Ellen Burstyn and unknown Linda Blair.
Reportedly, some viewers had adverse physical reactions while watching ‘The Exorcist’, often fainting and vomiting to scenes such as its protagonist undergoing a realistic cerebral angiography and masturbating with a crucifix. Additionally, there were a few cases of heart-attacks and miscarriages allegedly triggered by the content of the film. The plot follows the demonic possession of a 12-year old girl, and her mother’s attempts to win her back through an exorcism conducted by two priests.
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1. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Yes, it’s ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ topping the list this time. Written and directed by master film-maker Roman Polanski, the film deals with themes related to paranoia, women’s liberation, Christianity (Catholicism) and occult practices such as Satan worship. The movie follows husband-wife Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse as they move into the Bramford apartment building in New York City. When Rosemary gets pregnant after having a dream of a demonic presence raping her, she suspects that her new neighbors have sinister plans for the baby. Mia Farrow dazzles as the titular Rosemary, as she manages to get into the skin of her character. In 2014, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
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