The curse of the crying woman, says Judge Paul Corupe, runs deeper than smeared mascara and blotchy cheeks.
La Maldición de la Llorona
Long available to North American audiences through a campy K. Gordon Murray dub that played drive-ins and late night TV throughout the 1960s, the gothic Mexican horror shocker The Curse of the Crying Woman has finally gotten the respect it deserves. Upstart DVD label CasaNegra Entertainment's new definitive edition of this undisputed classic of MexiHorror cinema is nothing short of a revelation.
Facts of the Case
Arriving at her Aunt Selma's (Rita Macedo, The Paper Man) hacienda, fresh-faced Amelia (Rose Arenas, The Witch's Mirror) and her husband Jaime (Abel Salazar, The Braniac) are shocked to hear that the crumbling manor is home to a curse. Dear Aunite wastes no time educating Amelia about their family's turbulent past. Selma's mother was the legendary "Crying Woman," an evil sorceress who bargained with the devil to achieve immortality, but was killed by the townspeople who rightly blamed her for a rash of murders in the area. As the youngest descendant of the family, Amelia has been invited on the eve of her 23rd birthday to take part in the Crying Woman's re-birth ceremony, as Selma prepares to resurrect the spirit of her burned and tortured mother in the young girl's body.
If you've only seen the English dubbed, American-International Television version of The Curse of the Crying Woman, then you really haven't seen it at all. When stripped of its corny dub and restored to its full, bloody glory, this highly atmospheric production from the Mexico's house of horror, Cinematografica ABSA, can finally be enjoyed as an earnest effort at regional horror, and rightfully claim its title as one of the best films of its kind.
Like many Mexican horror films, The Curse of the Crying Womandraws on the well-known local folktale of "La Llorona," the story of ghostly apparition who roams the countryside loudly mourning the fate of her children, who she drowned to get back at her unfaithful husband. Though not an exact adaptation, director Rafael Baledón has crafted an undeniably spooky film that uses this image of eyeless ghost whose wailing is an omen of death as a jumping off point. Substituting the familiar "old dark house" for a cobweb-laden abode of dark corners and even darker secrets, the film is attractively directed and genuinely creepy. It maintains a superior gothic atmosphere throughout, even when La Llorna is almost forgotten in order to indulge in more visceral thrills.
What's really amazing, however, is how well-versed Baledón is in contemporary horror film. The Curse of the Crying Woman is full of nods to both American and European horror, but still maintains a strict regional flavor. Though it obviously borrows from Roger Corman's just-begun Poe cycle and Mario Bava's Black Sunday, it's the surreal, distinctly Mexican touches that really make the film a pleasure to watch. From a scene in which the Crying Woman's curse causes the sky to be lit up with dozens of floating eyeballs while Amelia's own peepers disappear from their sockets, to a witchhunt flashback printed eerily in negative, the film often exhibits a dreamlike quality that is wholly distinctive. Plus, unlike their sometimes prudish neighbors up North at the time, this country was not afraid to spill a little blood on the movie. Baledón is not afraid to get in tight on all the grisly detail on the torched and rotting corpse of Selma's mother's in the basement, awaiting her niece's arrival.
It's impressive for what amounts to a three-person cast running around on one big set. Abel Salazar, who also produced the film along with MexiHorror's finest entries (including The Brainiac, The Living Head and The Vampire) is a confident leading man. But it's Arenas and Rita Macedo who really steal the show with their engaging battle of wills. They bring the material up a notch.
To top it all off, CasaNegra Entertainment has done an excellent job compiling their inaugural DVD. Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, The Curse of the Crying Woman sports a clean, vibrant transfer. Contrast is quite good, with solid blacks and an excellent level of detail. The audio, offered not only the original Spanish mono track, but also the Murray dub for those who might be feeling nostalgic, is similarly bright and clear with no artifacts or hiss to speak of. Extras include a commentary with CasaNegra's Michael Liuzza, which has some interesting information but mostly resorts to describing the onscreen action; an essay on Baledón's career by David Wilt; cast bios; and the obligatory trailer and stills gallery. Stuffed in the case are a nice booklet explaining la Llorona and her history on film, along with a reversible cover in English and Spanish and a CasaNegra Loteria game card (whatever that is).
Just presenting this underappreciated classic uncut in its original language would be enough to please most fans of Mexican horror. But CasaNegra has gone above and beyond the call of duty, putting together a beautifully remastered, stellar edition of one of the genre's best productions. Highly recommended.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Casa Negra
• Audio Commentary by Michael Liuzza
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