There were enough red flags going into The Curse of La Llorona to make me worry. Setting a story that relies so heavily on a latino folklore in 1970s Los Angeles was one thing, and having a Caucasian protagonist was even worse. But this movie’s most serious flaw is that it simply feels lazy. There are enough good intentions to make you appreciate the effort, but every choice made feels like they wanted it to be done as quickly as possible with no regard for the original folktale or the people who care about it. Add a shoehorned-in last-minute Conjuring connection and you get this horror franchise’s version of The Cloverfield Paradox.
The legend of La Llorona, or The Weeping Woman, is arguably the most famous horror folktale in Latin America. Every country has their own version, but they mostly agree that La Llorona is the ghost of a woman whose children drowned (either by her hand, or someone else’s) and in her grief, she killed herself. She now spends her afterlife stuck in purgatory, weeping for her lost children and looking for new children to make her own. It’s a simple story, but there is no denying the huge impact it’s had on Latin American culture for generations, so it’s refreshing and exciting for La Llorona to finally make her debut in an American studio film. But this was the wrong film to do it.
We start with a prologue set in 1673 Mexico that shows the film’s version of the folktale, where our titular villainess murders her children, before jumping forward in time to Los Angeles. Here we meet social worker Anna (Linda Cardellini), a widower to a latino police officer who is called to the home of Patricia Alvarez (Patricia Velásquez). What appears to be a normal case of terrible parenting actually has something even more sinister behind it, and before long, two kids are dead, and the evil spirit has set her sights on Anna’s children.
Director Michael Chaves makes an impressive directorial debut with The Curse of La Llorona, and within a few minutes you will realize why he was given the keys to the next Conjuring movie (he’s set to direct Conjuring 3). He knows where to place the camera so that you’re always wary of what’s lurking at the corner of the screen, as well as maintaining an ominous atmosphere through the use of darkness and shadow. He also knows how to pull a good jump scare, even though the film relies too much on the same sound effect and jump scare repeatedly. After the 30th time the camera pans to reveal La Llorona standing where five seconds before there was nothing, you will beg for something new to happen on screen.
During a Q&A after the film’s world premiere at SXSW, producers Gary Dauberman and James Wan talked about being inspired by ’70s police procedurals and wanting to include that feeling in The Curse of La Llorona. There is definitely a touch of that in the movie, as the first half is more of an investigation into what is haunting these kids, and an exploration of the dynamics of the Tate-Garcia family to make us feel invested in their well-being.
The performances are mostly good. Linda Cardellini is convincing as the widow Anna, a woman struggling to raise her two kids alone, who now must also battle an angry spirit. She goes from sweet and loving to badass protective mama bear in a flash, and it’s thrilling to see her in fighting mode once her children are threatened. Raymond Cruz is a highlight as the wisecracking, ass-kicking curandero that acts as this film’s version of Father Merrin from The Exorcist, while also bringing some much needed humor. Rounding out the cast is Patricia Velásquez in an overdue return to horror (or horror-adjacent) movies after her role in The Mummy. Velásquez instantly sells you her pain and grief after the loss of her children with lines like, “I feel nothing, because I have felt the worst.” Unfortunately, she doesn’t get to do much, and is in the film for less than 10 minutes.
For a film that is being sold as a very latino story, it doesn’t feel like the writers or producers gave much thought to either the latino characters, or any kind of latino flavor. Despite most of the cast being Latin American or of latino descent, their characters are little more than plot devices, only there to give exposition and explain the folktale, or to hand a weapon to Anna. It’s a pity, really, that the most important characters are kept at arm’s length. This extends to a lack of consistency, as any Spanish-speaker will notice that Raymond Cruz’s character speaks with a different accent every five seconds, not to mention the egregious use of Dora The Explorer-like bilingualism.
The titular La Llorona gets the most barebones of a backstory, without much depth to her or her background despite centuries of folklore across many countries. That being said, La Llorona is very effective at scaring the audience, and a scene involving an umbrella is most impressive and effective in its intent. The issue is that it pretty much feels like a Conjuring movie in every way imaginable, without acknowledging the cultures from which it borrows this story. From the long zooms and camera movements to the extremely unnecessary use of loud noises before each jump scare, it feels like horror by numbers. There’s also the very much not needed connection to the Conjuring universe–Curse all but name-drops the Warrens without any kind of payoff to justify it.
Despite featuring latino actors and being based on a latino folktale, The Curse of La Llorona lacks latino flavor, instead feeling like the blandest of the Conjuring movies. This movie had so much potential, but the forced connection to the rest of the franchise ends up making it feel like the Cloverfield Paradox–a side story with potential, but which didn’t live up to the standard set by the other movies in the series.
|The Good||The Bad|
|Michael Chaves’s direction will make you excited for the Conjuring 3||Feels lazy in its attempt to capture Latin American folklore|
|Enough thrills and scares to entertain you||Over-reliance on jump scares and loud noises|
|Cast does a mostly good job||Conjuring connection shoehorned in|
|Latino characters get pushed to the sideline and used as plot devices|
A Future In The Cloud
How we access video games is changing all the time. Arcades gave way to home consoles with cartridges, before technology evolved to host games on discs. In recent years, the popularity of digital purchases has grown, as Xbox One X and PS4 Pro offer 1TB hard drives and Switch presents an easy way to play through both indie and triple-A titles on the go. Now, it looks like the next step is cloud gaming.
Several game publishers and hardware makers have already adjusted their long-term strategies to explore the possibilities that such a service could present–with Sony notably being one of the first which has allowed the company to get ahead of the curve. Cloud gaming puts more titles in front of more players after all, as it removes platform restrictions. If a game is running in the cloud, it can be streamed to consoles, PCs, handhelds, or mobile devices. The only true restriction to cloud gaming is internet speed, as you need a strong and constant connection to run your games without lag or stuttering.
In the following gallery, we point out the most prominent companies that are making strides in cloud gaming. Some are further along in developing their respective services in comparison to others, but each seems convinced to explore the technology or, at the very least, adapt their current subscription platforms to incorporate cloud-based support.
Sony / PlayStation
Sony is one of the earlier companies to take a stab at cloud stream gaming. In 2012, Sony bought Gaikai, a company that creates technology designed for streaming video games through a wireless or cloud-based network. Sony used this tech to develop streaming support for its PlayStation consoles.
Via Remote Play, you can stream PS3 games through your PSP or PS Vita as well as PS4 titles through PS Vita. Remote Play isn’t seen on every PS3 title, but all PS4 games–with the exception of those that utilize additional peripherals–support the service.
There’s also PlayStation Now, a cloud gaming subscription service which allows users to access certain PS2, PS3, and PS4 games by streaming the titles to their PS4 or PC for a monthly fee. In September 2018, Sony announced and released an update for PlayStation Now which allows subscribers to download PS2 and PS4 titles to the PS4, letting you play games even if you don’t have the recommended 5 MB per second internet speed.
PS4 also supports Share Play, which allows you to stream a game to a PSN friend, even if they don’t own the game themselves. Share Play also allows you and a friend to play the same game together if the title supports local multiplayer. Share Play is free, but both you and your friend need to be PlayStation Plus members to access it. Like PlayStation Now, the recommended internet speed is 5 MB per second, but the service can work with as low as 2 MB. Unfortunately, you can’t just game with a friend on Share Play forever. You can stream your game with whomever you want and for as many times as you desire, but each Share Play session can only last up to an hour. You can only stream your game to one person at a time too.
Microsoft / Xbox
Microsoft officially joined the game streaming party with the reveal of Project xCloud in October 2018. The service allows you to stream games directly to your PC, phone, or tablet via hardware in remote data centers.
Although it isn’t live yet, Xbox’s head of gaming cloud Kareem Choudhry has said that public trials will begin this year. A demo of Project xCloud was shown off during the March 2019 Inside Xbox livestream, which showcased Forza Horizon 4 being played on an Android mobile device that was also wirelessly connected to an Xbox One controller.
Microsoft has also launched Game Stack, a platform specifically designed to help developers build and launch cloud-connected games. The dev kit combines Microsoft’s services and platforms with Azure and PlayFab–giving aspiring creators access to DirectX, Mixer, Power BI, Havok, Visual Studio, Windows, Xbox Game Studios, Xbox Live, and Simplygon.
Xbox One doesn’t have a streaming service yet, but it has the building blocks in place to do so, with Xbox boss Phil Spencer already claiming the plan is for the console’s Game Pass to expand to “every device.” During a November 2018 Microsoft earnings call, CEO Satya Nadella also mentioned bringing Game Pass to PC. And through Project xCloud, Xbox’s subscription service could become a Netflix-style streaming platform.
Xbox Game Pass already offers hundreds of digital titles for download at a monthly fee. For as long as you pay for the subscription, you get access to any of the games offered through the service and can uninstall and redownload titles at your leisure. Much like Netflix, Game Pass’ library changes over time, with unpopular titles being replaced with new ones–which include original Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One games.
Nintendo hasn’t made huge strides in cloud-based game streaming, but the company is already experimenting with the technology. You just need to live in Japan to experience it.
In Japan, you can play a cloud version of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard on Switch. You own the game, but most of it is saved on the cloud while a tiny download is on the Switch’s SD card. Theoretically (we haven’t tried it), with a strong internet connection, you can play either game fairly smoothly, even in handheld mode. Nintendo has made no announcements for whether more games will get this cloud-based treatment for Switch, or whether this service will extend internationally to other countries.
EA isn’t in cloud stream gaming; not yet anyway. The company’s current work on Project Atlas means it will most likely be a part of the conversation one day.
During EA’s E3 2018 press conference, the company first showcased the then unnamed project, which is designed to bring the publisher’s library of games to the cloud. EA ran a demo during the gaming event, and CEO Andrew Wilson promised that the new tech would allow you to play any of EA’s games on whatever device you wanted.
Back in October 2018, in a blog post, EA chief technology officer Ken Moss announced 1,000 employees had begun work on Project Atlas. “This will be a fully integrated platform, capable of building the scalable, social, and large-scale experiences of the future,” Moss wrote. “So, while in the past, features like cloud hosting, matchmaking, marketplace, data, AI, achievements, and social were separate from the development tools in the engine, the Project Atlas platform will be able to implement all of these services natively within a unified solution.”
Since this announcement, EA has remained rather quiet about Project Atlas. However, Moss has confirmed the project is “already underway” so additional details will most likely come out within the next year.
According to The Verge, Verizon is testing its own variation of a cloud streaming service for games. Called Verizon Gaming, the service downloads as an app to a Nvidia Shield and then can stream your cloud-saved collection of games to your PC or mobile device.
Verizon, however, has not confirmed the existence of such a service. Supposed testers for the alpha version of the service said, back in January 2019, that Verizon Gaming currently doesn’t allow you to save your in-game progress and lags while you play. If Verizon Gaming does exist, it’s most likely still in a very early stage of development. Screenshots from the test showcase a wide variety of supported titles, including PS4 exclusives like God of War and console-only games like Red Dead Redemption 2.
Google has already finished beta testing for its cloud-based streaming service for games. Project Stream is designed to stream any game to your PC via the Google Chrome browser. It requires a much stronger connection than the other services listed here–Google advises a 25 MB per second internet speed–but it works pretty well.
During Project Stream’s public beta testing, we played Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and the game ran extremely smooth. There wasn’t any perceptible input lag, and although there was some noticeable compression, image quality was still fairly high. Project Stream seems to already be in a playable state, so we wouldn’t be surprised to hear additional details about the service this year.
Even if its service is still in beta, Nvidia has been in game cloud streaming since October 2015. Geforce Now offers access to a library of hundreds of games, all of which can be streamed to your PC.
Nvidia recommends a 50 MB per second internet connection to play games at 60fps at 1080p, but 10 MB per second is all you need to play at 30fps at 720p. There hasn’t been an announcement detailing when Geforce Now will officially launch, but Nvidia has continuously updated the service throughout the years–adding additional features like Twitch streaming support and in-game voice chat.
Next to nothing is known about Amazon’s upcoming video game streaming service other than that it’s being made and, according to The Information, unlikely to launch prior to 2020.
Amazon also owns Twitch, though. Admittedly Twitch isn’t the same as cloud gaming, but it does offer a form of game streaming by letting you watch an entire video game you don’t own be played on your PC, console, or mobile device via an internet connection. There’s potential for Twitch to lay the foundation for a new cloud-based gaming platform.
Though they don’t carry large names behind them, there are a few other companies making notable strides in gaming via cloud streaming. We’ve detailed what they are below.
Blade has been expanding its service with its Shadow boxes, which are hardware machines that host its cloud streaming app. What’s more convenient is that Shadow can also be used on any device that can run the application (Windows 7, 8.1, 10, macOS, Android, and iOS). It’s worth noting, however, that paying the monthly subscription to Shadow allows you to stream a gaming-caliber Windows 10 PC anywhere–which can then be used to access and play your games. You’re not streaming the games themselves. The most recent Shadow box, called Shadow Ghost, isn’t the best cloud-based game streaming experience we’ve ever had, but as stated in our review, it “showcases where gaming can go and where gaming hardware could fit into that future.”
Parsec also offers a means of streaming games to your device, specifically PC. However, like Twitch, it’s designed moreso as a means of sharing the experience of a game with another person. Via Parsec, you gain access to many other players’ streams, which you can then watch on your PC. Hosts can also invite a viewer to participate in the game they’re playing or pass control of the game off to another person whenever they want. With Parsec, you and your friends (or strangers) can play the same game together even when you’re miles apart.
The upcoming Halo TV show produced by Steven Spielberg was originally going to be directed by Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt. However, at the end of 2018 he dropped out due to scheduling issues, with Black Mirror director Otto Bathurst taking over. Now, Wyatt has shared even more insight into his exit from the show.
Speaking to Collider, Wyatt said he had to leave the Halo TV show because changes to the production schedule conflicted with his other commitments. He said that in his role as a director, he wasn’t with the project from day one, and as such, he wasn’t in control of the factors that ultimately led to the production becoming extended. Had he been the showrunner, he said he might have been able to stay aboard, he said.
However, with the decision to extend the production by “months if not years,” Wyatt had to step away to do other things. Overall, the version of the Halo TV show that exists today “wasn’t within the framework” for what Wyatt originally signed up for.
The Halo TV show’s showrunner–that is, the person or team who controls the creative direction of a show–is Kyle Killen who previously worked on Awake.
The new director, Otto Bathurst, directed the very first and very shocking episode of Black Mirror before going on to work on Peaky Blinders. He also directed the new Robin Hood movie featuring Jamie Foxx and Taron Egerton.
The Halo TV show will air on Showtime, whose parent company, CBS, also owns GameSpot. The last we heard from network president of programming Gary Levine was that the Halo show is “evolving beautifully with rich characters, compelling stories, and powerful scripts.” Showtime said previously that Halo is the network’s “most ambitious series ever,” and that’s notable given Showtime is behind some massive productions such as Homeland, Shameless, Billions, and more recently the Jim Carrey show Kidding.
Master Chief will feature in the Halo TV show in some capacity, but it remains to be seen if he is the lead, or what other characters might join him. The show is scheduled to begin production later in 2019, and Showtime has ordered 10 hour-long episodes of Halo for its first season.
In other Halo news, Microsoft recently confirmed that Halo: The Master Chief Collection is coming to PC, and it’ll be available on Steam. Additionally, Halo: Reach is coming to The Master Chief Collection on both Xbox One and PC.