Monterey Media // 2007 // 80 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // May 2nd, 2008
The urban legend...that kills.
Actually, the story of La Llorona is not an urban legend at all, it's a folk legend. Apparently, La Llorona was a 16th century Mexican Medea who got ticked at her faithless boyfriend and drowned their children. Her spirit hangs out near water and either drowns other people's children or entices mothers to drown their own kids so they can cry with her.
Now, 500 years later, La Llorona is making a special appearance in New York City, where 10 children have gone missing and a few others have been offed by their red-eyed moms.
In the real New York City, these crimes would inspire banner headlines and the work of an army of cops. In the New York City of The Cry, two detectives -- Scott (Christian Camargo, National Treasure: Book of Secrets) and Perez (Carlos Leon, The Woodsman and Madonna's baby daddy) -- are assigned to both the disappearances and the homicides.
Detective Scott brings a lot of baggage to his job. Years before, he was a stockbroker whose own 9-year-old son was La Llorona-ed by his wacky ex-wife. Probably not the guy you'd want to put in charge of a missing children/homicide investigation. His timeline would suggest he didn't even join the force until he was well into his 30s, and now appears to be in his late 30s, begging the question of how he rose so quickly through the ranks to become a detective in the first place.
Meanwhile, in another part of town -- Spanish Harlem, to be exact -- Maria (Adriana Dominguez, The Bridge of San Luis Rey) seems to have a connection to La Llorona. She sketches pictures of the missing children, has those crazy, split-second visions so voguish for horror film heroines, and hears voices. Sensibly, she's growing concerned about her own son, asthmatic post-toddler Tonio, who at one point draws a picture of mommy crying big, bloody tears and tells her his stuffed animal told him to do it. Clearly, La Llorona is camping out in a teapot or a fingerbowl or some other wet receptacle, so Maria bundles up the kid and takes him to Central Park, but not before calling the detectives and cryptically leaving a message as to her whereabouts.
Soon, it's nighttime, and everybody's in Central Park, where you'd think La Llorona would be the least of their worries. Our lake lady turns up and shows she has no age bias by taking down one of the detectives and a pair of jovial middle-aged winos.
Why is La Llorona so intent on adding Tonio to her roster of drowned children?
We really don't know.
Like many cultural myths and legends, the story of La Llorona is fascinating, creepy, and frightening and has already been the subject of a number of films. Director/co-writer Bernadine Santistevan is clearly well-versed in the La Llorona legend.
Unfortunately, Santistevan doesn't seem to have a story to tell. We get the La Llorona legend on a title card in the beginning of the film, and it's hashed and rehashed by virtually ever character who appears, but there's no dramatic movement. La Llorona never becomes a distinct character in the film; she could be any horror movie monster. We have no idea why she has suddenly popped up in New York or how she is choosing her victims. Her connection to Maria is never fleshed out. The derivative flash cutting, late-game attacks on adult males, and ambiguous ending make this indistinguishable from the dozens of direct-to-DVD releases that seem to pop up every week.
This really is a shame. Based on the extras and her excellent La Llorona blog, Santistevan seems to know her stuff about the legend and is genuinely interested in it as part of her cultural heritage. Apparently, millions of people believe in La Llorona. Had Santistevan focused more on exploring -- rather than reiterating -- the legend and its place in Hispanic culture instead of using it as a backdrop for a typical low-budget shocker, The Cry could have been a powerful and unique film.
For an already short film, we get an awful lot of footage of people driving, walking, and chatting, loads of flashbacks to the death of Det. Scott's son (which, apparently, was not La Llorona orchestrated), and all sorts of other things that fill the time but don't tell a story. Santistevan's ideas for a plot just seem unformed. When she tosses out references to real-life offspring-killing atrocities -- like the Andrea Yates case -- to bolster her film's cred, it's offensive.
The disc sports a good-looking transfer and a nice 5.1 audio track. Subtitles are available in Spanish and are, annoyingly, not accessible with the remote. Surprisingly, there is no Spanish dub track. Extras are spare: a couple of minutes of Santistevan talking about the legend, an onscreen text about La Llorona, and what appears to be a student video Santistevan made of different people talking about La Llorona.
Any film about endangered children is going to be disturbing, and The Cry is no exception. It's too bad Santistevan couldn't come up with a storyline worthy of her premise.
Review content copyright © 2008 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Monterey Media
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* "Thoughts from the Director"
* About the Legend
* "La Llorona" Short Film
* Official Site
* Bernadine Santistevan's La Llorona Blog