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November 05, 2007

The Curse of the Crying Woman

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La Maldicion de la Llorona
Rafael Baledon - 1961
CasaNegra Region 1 DVD

Hola! You may think that I shouldn't be bothering writing about horror films on November 5. After all, Holloween was last week. I was planning to tie my review with El Dia de Los Muertos. I live in the heavily Chicano neighborhood currently known as The Santa Fe Arts District. Maybe I'm responding to very distant Ladino roots. This particular review would have been done in a more timely manner but some goblins disrupted my usually routine flow of DVDs.

Rafael Baledon's story of La Llorona is closer to the traditions found in the better known horror films from America and Europe than any folk tales. The scariest part of the film is to be found in seeing some very large rats roam though a cobwebbed cellar where where Aunt Selma keeps the decomposed remains of La Llorona on display. Given the limited budget he had to work with, Baledon's film is for the most part an effective transposition of gothic horror taking place primarily in a crumbling hacienda.

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Some credit should go to producer-star Abel Salazar for stepping back and allowing the film to primarily showcase Rita Macedo and Rosa Arenas as the villainous Aunt Selma and her neice, respectively. The film is something of a family affair as Arenas and Salazar married at about the time the film was made, and Macedo's daughter appears as one of Aunt Selma's first victim's, run over by a stagecoach in the film's first scene.

Baledon takes advantage of the sparse interiors in so that they serve to function on behalf of the story. The exteriors use some strategically placed twigs and fog to create a forest that seems deeper and darker. Even the use of negative film is effective when Macedo tells Salazar the story of La Llorona. At a few moments, Baledon becomes too reliant on the zoom lens with a few too many close-ups of eyes to express shock. That Baledon's abilities as a director have been overlooked speaks more about genre and cultural prejudices. Curse of the Crying Woman has some technical flaws that could have been resolved with a few more dollars on special effects, but for the most part is as good as anything produced at this time from Corman, Fisher or Bava.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 5, 2007 12:19 AM