Poster for The Legend of La Llorona showing a ghostly figure walking across a misty hill with a house in the background

Trigger warnings for child loss, miscarriage, infanticide and drowning

The Legend of La Llorona is a horror story about a woman haunted – not by a ghost, but by her insufferable idiot of a husband. Okay fine, it’s about the trauma of losing a child, as you’d expect given the source material. But he’s also really, really annoying.

The ghostly La Llorona is a figure of Mexican folklore, a spirit forever mourning the loss of the infant she killed – or, in some cases, failed to save. She’s a popular subject for horror films, particularly in the last decade, but every representation changes the story a little bit to make it new; in this case, by making her back story unnecessarily convoluted.

Her popularity may have something to do with the universal horror of unending grief. Losing a child isn’t just a horrifying concept, it’s an eminently understandable reason for a spirit to be suffering. Plus, you can get away with using a chiffon shawl for most of the special effects! 

The central family – made up of Andrew, Carly and their son – are spending some time away together in Mexico after losing their daughter through still-birth. Here’s where they make their first few fatal mistakes: they fail to do any research about the area, and Andrew doesn’t tell the housekeeper upon booking that they’re bringing a child. 

So of course they turn up in Cartel Central, which also happens to be a hotspot for child disappearances. Andrew can’t keep his mouth shut around the cartel members, and instantly dumps the unexpected brat on the poor housekeeper who’s still processing her own trauma. Luckily, Danny Trejo’s here! His name is Jorge, he drives a taxi, and he has the divine ability to show up whenever and wherever he’s needed.

Two Hispanic women look shocked and are clutching at a small boy
Shush child, that silk scarf can’t hurt you now

Drama unfolds and a seemingly never-ending series of kidnappings ensue, orchestrated by La Llorona in the form of a sentient table cloth. While they argue about their lost daughter, their son continually goes missing, and their response every time is to try and intimidate a group of cartel members who have no clue what they’re talking about. It doesn’t go well. When would that ever go well?

One series of misadventures later, they learn the dramatic truth about the spectre once known as Maria, enabling them to fix the terrible wrong that happened to her. Except – minor spoilers here, but as vaguely as possible – they fuck it up.

Somewhere along the line La Llorona becomes vulnerable to shotguns, Jorge licks the slime of a haunted moist towelette, and Andrew shouts “Motherfrickers!”. Danny “Ex Machina” Trejo magically saves the day, because why would you hire Danny Trejo and not use him as much as possible?

Danny Trejo holding a shotgun in a dark hallway with an open door behind him
Danny Trejo doing what he does best – holding a weapon angrily

While The Legend of La Llorona mostly ranged from hilarious to awkward, it was genuinely creepy for a solid twenty minutes. While the special effects on the titular white-hanky-turns-supermarket-Halloween-costume were pretty poor, there were moments of sweet spot between showing and hiding the monster that, combined with the chilling wailing, allowed for some decent horror. The island of dolls was particularly unsettling and used to great effect, even if it was a little tacked-on to the plot.

The Legend of La Llorona has an overly convoluted plot and questionable writing choices, but it also has an island full of baby dolls with souls, creepy nursery rhymes, and a magical Danny Trejo. For a certain kind of person, it’ll go down a treat. You know who you are.

More Film Reviews