#SDCC18: Director Michael Chavez And Cast Talk THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA
Growing up in Southern California, I forget that not everyone knows who La Llorona is. Long before J-Horror was making nightmare fuel out of long hair and white dresses, La Llorona haunted the bedtime stories of Latin American children the world round. True story, my brother-in-law (who is a cop) actually responded to a call reporting La Llorona haunting the highways of Bakersfield. Turned out to just be a regular lady in a white dress having some car trouble, but I’m not sure I would have taken that call.
So when I saw that they were making a film about the woman in white and her ghostly curse—aptly titled The Curse of La Llorona—I had high expectations. Announced at this year’s ScareDiego during SDCC 2018, the few clips I saw looked promising. If you want an in-depth breakdown of what I saw, you can check out my full article on the event. So when the good people at New Line Cinema reached out to me and offered me the chance to talk to the director and cast, I was all like, “hellz yeah dawg.” First up was director Michael Chavez (The Maiden) and Patricia Velasquez (The L Word, The Mummy):
Dread Central: You got to unveil the first footage of The Curse of La Llorona at ScareDiego. How has the fan reaction been so far?
Michael Chavez: So we screened those three clips and the sizzle, and the fan response has been awesome. It’s been so cool to see what people think. I just felt this energy in the room when we were announcing it. The story of La Llorona has been around for hundreds of years, and you can tell that people want to see this story come to life.
DC: Well I grew up in San Diego, so I’m definitely familiar. This story is so heavily ingrained in Latin culture. What was it like bringing this story to life, and was there a purpose to that given the current political climate?
MC: I’m a SoCal native too, I grew up in Oceanside. So I also grew up hearing about La Llorona. It’s a good question, but we definitely didn’t make the movie to be political. The movie has been in development for over 3 years, and 3 years ago no one was thinking about the same things that we are now. It feels very timely, but it wasn’t intended to be politically charged. If I’m being honest, I think the best thing that can come out of this story is bringing people together. But all good storytelling brings people together. From the people who are telling it, the people listening, the people that it’s about. Stories bridge gaps. Especially scary movies.
Patricia Velasquez added:
Patricia Velasquez: Now, this is of course a story that’s especially important to the hispanic culture, but every culture around the world has their own version of La Llorona. It’s a universal fear.
DC: So the main reaction I had to the footage I saw was that it looked uniquely brutal and physical. What was it like coordinating those stunts.
MC: We leaned into as much practical effects as we could. Whether it was with the stunts, makeup, whatever, I wanted it in front of the camera. Whenever we used CG, it was mostly to just paint out rigs or wires. I wanted everything to exist in the scene. It’s more fun to shoot, and audiences connect to it more. I love the physicality of horror movies. I remember with Poltergeist, it had so much energy. It’s palpable. I know that with supernatural movies, you can sometimes feel a bit removed from it. I like psychological, but movies can be too psychological. I wanted there to be a cool physicality to this.
DC: Patricia, what drew you to the script?
PV: From an actor’s point of view, it’s an extraordinary role to play. It’s incredibly emotional. As an actor, you need to know your goals in a scene, and the goals are very clear. It’s life or death, protecting your children. That’s something that as an actor you want to be a part of. On top of that, the script itself was just very respectful to the culture behind the story. It’s just an amazing project to be a part of, telling a story that hasn’t been told before on this level.
DC: So is this going to tie in to any of the other New Line movies?
MC: There was a little clue in that sizzle montage at the end. I don’t know when the trailer will be dropped, but fans should definitely hunt for a few easter eggs in there. I will say that James Wan is a producer on this, and a big supporter. If there was a way to connect this to The Conjuring universe, having him as a producer would be integral to that.
And let me say, working with James [Wan] is so much fun. It’s so inspiring to work with him. He has a great ability to focus the studio into giving you whatever you really need. Having him on your side is a huge boost, and as just a guy to have around he’s a total pleasure.
DC: What superhero movie do you want to direct now?
I think that’s getting a bit ahead of myself. I’ve always loved scary movies. I grew up on horror movies. Even beyond that, films like Jurassic Park and Terminator 2 are some of my favorite films. And I feel like movies like that have been missing for a while. Bit blockbuster mainstream films just aren’t as scary as they used to be. Maybe that’s just because I grew up, or if the appetite for scary movies has just splintered. But for me, I will always make scary movies. If I had to pick, I would do a deep dive into the library. What I love about Guardians of the Galaxy is that no one knew about it before it was a movie. No one had a judgement or opinion. That’s what’s so dangerous about doing something big. I’d never want to do a Batman movie. You can just never live up to The Dark Knight.
(As an aside, I’d like to take a moment to shine a light on the short film that scored Michael Chavez this directing job. The 2016 short film The Maiden definitely showcases Chavez’s scare-crafting skills)
Next up, I had the chance to talk to Linda Cardellini (Bloodline, ER, Scooby-Doo) and Raymond Cruz (Major Crimes, The Closer, From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money):
DC: My first question is for Linda. We saw a lot of physicality in these scenes. What was shooting that like? Are you okay? Did you hurt yourself?
Linda Cardellini: Oh I hurt myself a ton of times. I came home with bruises. One time my hand was just completely wrecked from pounding on the door. We have stunt people, but a ton of this I had to do myself. One scene in the pool… I was underwater in the pool all day. When I read it I was thinking, “Wow, what a great scene!” Then I got to shooting it and I was basically drowning. It was like midnight and I’m soaking wet, swallowing all this water.
DC: We didn’t actually get to see much of your character Raymond. Did you go through similar stuff when shooting?
Raymond Cruz: When you see the movie, you’ll get a better sense of my character. I play Raphael, who is a curandero. Basically a South American shaman. He comes in to help Linda and her family battle La Llorona, to save their souls and lives. But he comes in with the full energy that this is real. Linda is a little skeptical, but Raphael knows what’s up.
DC: So what kind of mystical stuff will we be seeing? Is Raphael going to be shooting fireballs?
RC: There’s a lot he does with spiritual energy. He’s an expert in Catholicism, so he combines that with some other stuff from a more shamanistic origin. I don’t want to give it away, but it’s some cool stuff. Ancient magic. It’s all real. And It’s based on real magic that these guys practice. We fought really hard to make it all authentic, all based on what these guys really do. A curandero in hispanic culture are held in very high regard, and we wanted to respect that.
DC: So there are a lot of different kinds of scary movies. For horror fans, what are they in store for with La Llorona?
RC: La Llorona is a legendary monster. Her story goes back hundreds of years. You can say Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman, and everyone knows who you’re talking about. Go south of the border, and it’s the same for La Llorona. It’s this mythical being that everyone is afraid of, and everyone knows her power.
DC: Well I only got to see a few of the scenes, but what I did saw looked very intense. Relentless. Is that the experience horror fans are in for when they buy a ticket to see The Curse of La Llorona?
LC: Yes, definitely. What’s great about this film is that it’s Michael’s [Chavez] first film. He’s got a great eye for this. The way he moves the camera is really beautiful and terrifying. There’s a good mix here, a story told that’s crafted in a certain way. On top of being scary, it’s just so fun to look at and watch.
RC: There are physical, psychological, and emotional scares in the movie. There are some scenes where there’s just sound, and it’s going to scare you. La Llorona is a fright fest, and you’re gonna be worn out by the time it’s done.
While tight lipped about any potential spoilers, I got some good info about what to expect from The Curse of La Llorona. It’s also definitely part of some larger universe. Given the New Line library, The Conjuring is the best bet. A close runner up would be a tie-in with Lights Out, another Atomic Monster production. If this turns out to be a secret sequel to The Rite, I will straight up lose my mind.
So what about you guys? Excited for The Curse of La Llorona? What movie do you think this might be a secret sequel to? Let me know below!