Next weekend could provide an interesting answer to a question not posed before – how much can a Conjuring series picture gross if a lot of moviegoers may not be aware it’s actually part of the franchise? I give you TheCurseofLaLlorona, the sixth entry in this scary supernatural cinematic universe. The 1970s set ghost tale is directed by Michael Chaves in his feature-length debut (he’s slated to be behind the camera for the third official Conjuring flick next year). Linda Cardellini headlines a cast that includes Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez, Tony Amendola (reprising his Annabelle role), and Sean Patrick Thomas.
Llorona premiered last month at the South by Southwest Festival. Early reviews are mixed to negative with a current 44% Rotten Tomatoes score. At the time of its unveiling, it was a bit of a surprise that this even existed in the billion dollar worldwide franchise. It’s a legitimate question as to whether the marketing campaign has had enough time to establish that fact.
In my view, that almost certainly means this will experience the lowest debut of the series so far. Horror fans have certainly had options lately with Us and PetSematary. That said, it’s a risky group of films to bet against. Just last fall, TheNun unexpectedly set the franchise opening weekend high mark at $53 million. The lowest start belongs to Annabelle: Creation at a still impressive $35 million. That creepy doll, by the way, is back this June with AnnabelleComesHome.
Tracking currently has this at $20 million and that sounds about right.
TheCurseofLaLlorona opening weekend prediction: $20.1 million
Annabelle was rushed into production after summer 2013’s The Conjuring turned out to be a huge hit and one of the better genre flicks in recent memory. The title character is a wide-eyed, creepy doll who turned up memorably in a supporting role in the aforementioned production. Here she gets her own feature and it feels exactly like a rushed project meant to tide fans over until the legitimate Conjuring sequel. Annabelle was shot on a smaller budget and looks cheaper.
The picture deems it necessary to open with a title card explaining the history of dolls and then footage of The Conjuring to remind us why we just spent our dough. We flash back to 1969 (one year prior to Conjuring’s haunted happenings) where dull Dr. John (Ward Horton) and pregnant wifey Mia (Annabelle – woah – Wallis) gain the attention of our demonic doll after some cult figures (think Manson) invade their home. Moving doesn’t help. Annabelle has no issues making the journey to Pasadena with our non-descript couple. Alfre Woodard turns up as a bookstore owner who helps Mia understand what’s happening with Tony Amendola in the well worn role as a priest trying to assist.
Annabelle tries to generate its scares though sound effects and lingering shots of our doll staring. We keep waiting for those huge eyes to move. It all worked much better in The Conjuring and especially in Rosemary’s Baby, which director John Leonetti pays occasional tribute to. Most distressingly, the tone is far too somber. It’s about a crazy and vengeful kids doll after all. Chucky might’ve helped. There are a couple of mildly hair rising moments, but not near enough. This was designed to provide leftovers to hungry Conjuring fans but it’s unlikely to satisfy.