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  Llorona, La A Crying Shame
Year: 2019
Director: Jayo Bustamante
Stars: Maria Telon, Maria Mercedes Coroy, Sabrina De La Hoz, Margarita Kenefic, Julio Diaz, Juan Pablo Olyslager, Ayla-Elea Hortado, Pedro Javier Silva Lira
Genre: Horror, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Enrique (Julio Diaz) is currently on trial for crimes against humanity, for he was the President in charge of Guatemala during the nineteen-eighties and oversaw mass murder on a huge scale, all in the name of stemming the supposed Communist threat. Now, as he awaits an impending verdict, he is living in his mansion with his female family and servants, and possibly the stress is getting to him, or else his age has induced dementia in him, because he is not behaving as if his wits are as sharp as they were. Evidence: he wakes up in the middle of the night, gets out of bed and grabs a gun from his arsenal, then creeps around the building until his wife finds him - and he takes a shot at her, his bodyguard wrestling the weapon from his hands.

Is Enrique under the impression the folkoric figure of La Llorona is after him, seeking vengeance? Who knows what is going on in his head, but it's clear this was not so much a horror movie drawing on fables of Central America, more a drama movie drawing on real life horrors of Guatemala in particular. Though alas, there was material here that would apply to the other countries in the region, and to South America in the twentieth century as well; the old man here was based on an actual Guatemalan dictator who more or less was convicted of the same crimes Enrique is, and that verdict was overturned to massive controversy in his homeland, precisely as happens in this narrative. This did beg the question, why not make a movie about the real life criminal?

It was probably because director Jayo Bustamante was set on adding the supernatural elements so that we could see him, his family and his generals get their just desserts at the hands of the watery spectre of the title. In tradition, she weeps for her dead children, though usually in the stories she has murdered them herself, and in this telling it is the soldiers who have slaughtered the children, specifically of the Mayan indigenous population, as well as massacring thousands of the tribespeople per day, and throwing in mass rapes to the horrific circumstances. Even Enrique, despite being the head man, has indulged in sexual assaults, it is implied, as his chief housekeeper (Maria Telon) may be evidence of his sexual domination of the Mayans, though this is not wholly clear as the details begin to get as fuzzy as his clouded thinking.

Then there's Alma (Mercedes Maria Coroy), the Mayan girl who shows up to help when the rest of the staff scarper as the mansion grows ever more dangerous, akin to the siege seen in Night of the Living Dead, though this was more ghost story than zombie flick. Alma seems to know more than she's letting on, and becomes a catalyst for visions and terror the house residents suffer as the crushing weight of guilt becomes too much to bear - but is Enrique actually feeling any of it, or has he escaped justice by receding into his confused thoughts? There was a sense that the film was angry nothing that was done after the genocide would ever be enough to balance the revolting crimes on an enormous scale, and to that end was trying to bring that anger home to its audience, but that can merely make the audience frustrated, no matter how vividly the events were depicted. And there were scenes in this that were appropriately harrowing as flashbacks mix with nightmares in the latter stages. A brave stab at a subject probably too ghastly to accurately depict on the screen. Music by Pascual Reyes.

[La Llorona is available on streaming service Shudder.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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