‘The Curse of La Llorona’ Tops Box Office, Draws Criticism for Appropriation

By Tiarra Mukherjee Apr 22, 2019

Horror film “The Curse of La Llorona” topped box office charts over Easter weekend, grossing 10 million more than predicted thanks to a large turnout by Latinx audiences.

Based on the folktale of “the weeping woman,” the film follows a social worker who must save her kids from the wrath of a deadly spirit in 1970s Los Angeles. Yesterday (April 21), Deadline reported that Warner Bros.’s head of marketing directed his team to mine the revered cautionary tale by relying on  religious icons and symbolism to attract Latinx audiences. To that end, the studio hired healers, curanderos, to offer audiences limpias, spiritual cleansings.

Many curanderos and academics were outraged, calling the ploy disgraceful and offensive. Grace Sesma, a curandero who was contacted to participate in the campaign, told The Hollywood Reporter: “It heightens the fear factor around a traditional practice and commodifies and exploits our culture just to get people to see their movie.”

The strategy worked: Latinx moviegoers made up 49 percent of the audience, and the film made $26.5 million domestically. But the film’s interaction with the Latinx community has been strained from the start; People reported back in October that many folks were upset with the casting of a White woman (Linda Cardellini) as the lead.