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‘The Curse of La Llorona’: Horror franchise conjures a laughable clunker

A social worker (Linda Cardellini) tries to save her children (Jaynee Lynne Kinchen, left, and Roman Christou) from a hissing ghost in "The Curse of La Llorona." | New Line Cinema

NOOOOOOOOOOO!

Unfortunately, yes.

I’ve been afflicted with “The Curse of La Llorona.”

The symptoms are all there:

• Excessive, uncontrollable eye-rolling at the overacting, clumsy plot machinations and cliché-riddled “Gotcha!” moments.

• Frequent glances at watch combined with irrational fear time has stood still, despite the brief running time of just over 90 minutes.

• Heavy sighing as putatively bright characters make incredibly stupid decisions.

• Inadvertent laughter at moments intended to be serious.

Yep. I’ve been cursed.

“The Curse of La Llorona” (which means “weeping woman”) is the sixth entry in the Conjuring Universe (which includes of course the “Conjuring” movies as well as the “Annabelle” horror films), but it sucks as a stand-alone film, despite a promising set-up.

In Mexican folklore, “La Llorona” is the ghost of a woman who centuries ago was rejected by her husband and reacted with psychotic rage, drowning their two children before killing herself. Now, through the ages, she is stuck between the lands of the living and the dead, kidnapping and killing children in the insane hope they’ll replace her own murdered offspring.

That DOES sound like the makings of an effectively creepy horror gem, dontcha think?

Yeah, that’s what I thought too.

Our story is set the Los Angeles of 1973, which means we get to enjoy some colorful fashions and hairstyles, marvel at the cars of the time, and even hear Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly” on the soundtrack as the action kicks in.

Linda Cardellini’s Anna is a social worker and the widowed mother of two young children: Chris (Roman Christou) and his little sister Samantha (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen).

Everybody treats Anna as if she’s good at her job, but I think she’s the worst. I’m basing this on the fact when Anna gets a call in the middle of the night and learns the children of one of her clients have been drowned, she drives the family station wagon to the murder scene and parks within sight of the bodies — WITH HER TWO KIDS IN THE BACK SEAT.

Come on, Anna! Get a sitter.

Through a series of circumstances not worth examining, La Llorona herself — a hissing, pasty-faced zombie-ghost in a white gown — targets Anna’s children. But instead of grabbing them right away, La Llorona keeps showing up and scaring the life out of them, so we can continue to have a movie.

Director Michael Chaves shoots nearly every scene in near-darkness — the better to set up those cheap scares. As usual in these types of films, even when the house is practically shaking with supernatural activity, the neighbors never notice anything.

Not only does Mom make stupid decisions, even the kids seem a little — I want to be nice, so I’ll just say, a little slow on the uptake.

The only redeeming feature in this forgettable clunker is the performance of Raymond Cruz, who is perhaps best known for playing the menacing Tuco Salamanca in “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.” As a former priest who now operates on “the fringes of religion” and runs a shop filled with anti-demon potions, spirit-quelling decorations for the home and office, and special crucifixes for that special occasion when lives are at stake, Cruz is a deadpan treasure, never cracking the hint of a smile even as he delivers some well-timed one-liners.

Wish we could have had an entire movie about this guy. Instead, we were cursed with the annoying and shrieking but not even close to terrifying La Llorona.

‘The Curse of La Llorona’

1⁄2

New Line Cinema presents a film directed by Michael Chaves and written by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis. Rated R (for violence and terror). Running time: 93 minutes. Now showing at local theaters.