La Llorona 💧
*** beware: this is a film about genocide ***
There are horror stories, as in Onibaba, that don't rely on their supernatural elements to evoke terror. Rather, entities such as ghosts represent the consequence of real-world atrocities, and the frightening villain is human cruelty. Jayro Bustamante's La Llorona (2019) is that kind of movie. It takes the Latin American folktale of 'The Weeping Woman' and adapts it to describe the horrors of the genocide in Guatemala. Specifically, the film sets its sights on the elderly Enrique Monteverde (Julio Diaz) and his family. Enrique is a stand-in for the very real anti-communist general and dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, who was behind the genocide of native Mayans in the early '80s. The U.S. and Israel supported the monster.
*** spoilers ahead ***
Enrique's daughter Natalia (Sabrina De La Hoz) is at the crux of the film, as she copes with what her father has done. After the trial in which Enrique is declared guilty (the verdict is later dismissed), Natalia shows empathy for the woman that testified about her rape during the killings. Natalia's mother Carmen (Margarita Kenéfic) reproaches her, convinced that the woman was paid to lie, and wonders out loud, "when did you become a lefty?"
The class and racial divide is on full display as the story stays confined within the family home. Rightfully angry protestors surround the property in solidarity with the missing and dead. All but the most loyal of the servants (María Telón as Valeriana) leave. They're all of indigenous descent, serving a white family, by the way. And they're scared for their lives. The senile Enrique is wondering the house at night with a pistol ready. He hears the ghastly cries of a woman and suspects that assassins are about. He nearly kills his wife in the dark. Yet, Carmen dares to call the leaving servants ungrateful and warns that no one else will hire them. Natalia is on her mother's side on this, but uses kinder words. Later, I imagine Natalia more readily realizes her privileges when she asks about the new maid's children. Natalia's daughter Sara (Ayla-Elea Hurtado) explains that they're already dead.
The mysterious new maid (María Mercedes Coroy) is named Alma, which means 'spirit' in Spanish. Perhaps that's an early clue that she's in fact a ghost. She has the long hair and affinity for water that one associates with 'La Llorona.' Though she can easily be a living insurgent on the hunt for Monteverde. I'm pretty sure she's a ghost. But it doesn't matter. We don't need her detailed backstory, because it's clear what she represents: the vengeful soul of a wronged people.
The ending is utterly satisfying, as a community of spirits scare the shit out of the family and compel Carmen to strangle Enrique to death. The real-life Efraín Ríos Montt apparently died of a heart-attack in 2018, before he could face any justice. Dying to a punitive haunting makes more sense.
Hmm... This Halloween season I'll be imagining the dead coming back for war criminals like W. Bush and bigots who loathe refugees.
This has been day 26 of 31 days of horror.
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