La Llorona is a sobering look at the Mayan genocide at the hands of the Guatemalan military, infused with a keenly reimagined figure of Latin folklore. A former general is being charged with the massacre, torture and pillaging of the villages of Mayan civilians, including women and children. This was a counterinsurgency operation that followed the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996) and into the "Silent Holocaust" of 1981-1983 where upwards of 166,000 people were killed.
Holed up in a lavish mansion, the general, his wife, and daughter are fending off a large group of protestors that continue their efforts around the clock just outside their gates. The sound design is restless and unnerving with the chants, songs and shouting always present at some level. Inside, the house staff abandon their positions, and the lone housekeeper is left to manage, clean up shattered windows, prepare meals, and caretake of the ailing general. Just in a time a woman with long flowing hair, white gown, and a quiet disposition appears at their front door to offer her services. With a deliberate, methodical pace and shrouded, disquieting horror, the film is profound, satisfying & sorrowful. The harrowing dream sequences are brutal, and ultimately the film suggests that the crimes of men are paid by the women around them. This is an incredibly special film that evokes the same feelings I had after watching last year's Tigers Are Not Afraid. The horrors are very real and this is not a traditional horror film which may be disappointing to those seeking quick thrills and jump scares. But as a historical drama with fantastical elements, this is an urgent, timely exploration of the need for folklore, giving a voice to the silent, and providing justice to the disenfranchised. However, this film is still not the definite take on the classic Llorona lore, which I hope someone will make one day. Folklore passes down stories of a culture, gives meanings to traditions, and explains hidden historical context that may otherwise be lost. La Llorona is very personal and important figure in Latin culture and she serves as a warning and cautionary tale within a mystical, ghostly figure. I grew up with her and it was frightening, alluring, and ever-present in my back of my mind. La Llorona is currently available exclusively on Shudder.