Guatemalan Horror Film La Llorona: Perfect Blend of Political Suspense and Supernatural Mythos

Alicia Veliz – Guest Writer

La Llorona (not to be confused with The Curse of La Llorona) is a Guatemalan film directed by Jayro Bustamente that falls into three different genres: horror, thriller and drama. The director is a native of Guatemala and was born in a community primarily of Mayan heritage next to Lake Atitlán, which is located in a massive volcanic crater in Guatemala’s southwestern highlands.

The inspiration for the movie is taken from the true story of the Guatemalan genocide that took place in the early 1980’s. The director is quoted as saying that he wanted to use the movie as a platform to reach the masses though the love of the horror genre to educate them on the dark history of his country. 

The movie is a modern day telling of the classic spooky story of the weeping woman who cries for her murdered children. La Llorona is a well-known Latin American folk tale that originated somewhere between the early 1800s. While there are many different variations in existence the main mythos seems to be that anyone hearing the cries of La Llorona are marked for death.

M-m-m-my Llorona

The story begins with an ageing ex-dictator, General Enrique Monteverde (Julio Diaz), being put on trial for the genocide of the indigenous Mayan Ixiles and crimes against humanity. He proclaims his innocence even though many survivors of the massacre came forward to testify to atrocious horrors that took place during and afterwards. Finally, when it seems as though justice has been served, a technicality sees the general freed from his terrible crimes. Or is he?

Now steps in La Llorona, played by Mercedes Coroy, to dispense her own brand of justice. The actress’ long tresses and mesmerising stares with those wide eyes really captures the audience. She hardly says anything, but her powerful on-screen presence was enough. The haunting imagery and tension-filled atmosphere creates the perfect blend of political suspense and supernatural mythos.

You can see where the director pulls from his native roots to showcase the injustices and prejudices suffered by the indigenous peoples of Latin America. He does an excellent job at portraying the manifestation of guilt into an entertaining ghost story minus the jump scares of its above mentioned American counterpart, also released in 2019. The story goes much deeper and is more disturbing when the true gravity of the general’s crimes come to light.

That looks refreshing

There is a lot of symbolic imagery via the stark contrast between the camera panning from protests for justice outside the general’s vast mansion to the Monteverde family sunbathing in the backyard and back to the crowd shouting and chanting constantly outside the gates. Meanwhile chaos begins to take root slowly in their minds via La Llorona on the inside showing that they are not invulnerable despite their class.

It is a brilliant movie and can pass under the radar again for being a foreign language film. But it such a satisfying cohesion of the genres that I would highly recommend you give this one a watch. This is probably the best portrayal of La Llorona that I have ever seen on film.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

You can view La Llorona for yourself on Shudder by clicking the image below:

For the other La Llorona film, The Curse of La Llorona, check out our list of the Top 5 Movies of the Conjuring Universe here.