Set in 1970s Los Angeles, The Curse of La Larona tells the story of the legendary titular ghost as she stalks the night — and the children. Despite the ominous warning of a troubled mother, a social worker and her children find themselves drawn into a terrifying supernatural world. Fighting for survival, their only hope stems from a disheartened curandero (Raymond Cruz) who practices mysticism to fight the dark forces of evil. Although the film is another piece of the ever-expanding universe of The Conjuring, Cruz argues that the film is ultimately based in reality.
“It’s been hundreds of years that [this story] has been passed down from generation to generation, but it’s more than just a tale,” he warns. “There’s been sightings of La Larona throughout Latin culture in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, California, Mexico and other Latin countries. There are people that have actually heard and seen her. She’s a modern-day Boogie Man, [and] she’s actually out there. When you do a film about a horror subject, there has to be an odd sense of reality to it. [There needs to be] the other side that exists and she does exist for people in the Latin community. She’s very real.”
With so much history behind it, Cruz argues that the power of the story is tied significantly into Latin culture and the stories of his youth.
“It’s deeply embedded in the Latin culture,” he explains. “You grow up hearing about it when you were a child. It’s always been a warning [from] your grandparents or your parents that you have to be careful going out at night or if you hear a woman crying, you have to run because that’s La Larona. La Larona isn’t out there trying to scare you. She will kill you.”
In Curse, Cruz plays Rafael, a disillusioned priest who is called to help battle the evil La Larona. Says Cruz, his ability to battle the dark spiritual forces allows him to help those that are overwhelmed by them.
“Rafael is a former priest,” he states. “He left the church because he thought that the church moved too slow in responding to this. He goes out on his own, becomes a curandero and has to use his mix of spirituality—his background is Christianity—and the spirituality of the church. He uses that combined with his magic that he learned about combating negative entities. He feels a void where people who are suffering from the supernatural occurrences where they need help and then, he steps up and helps them. He provides a way for them to survive.”
In order to prepare for the role, Cruz took the spiritual history of his character very seriously. By referencing actual curanderos, he sought to understand the very real supernatural battles that were taking place within the film.
According to Cruz, “I have a friend who studied with curanderos in Mexico so I used her as a reference. About a month before [we began filming], I started doing my work and started trying to figure out the spirituality of the character. A curandero is basically a shaman. It’s not just saying prayers—although, it is steeped in Catholicism and Christianity—because you can only use light to battle darkness. You can only use good to battle evil. You have to understand their approach, how they work and what their methods are. So, it was a lot of it was trying to understand where his head is at at any moment or what magic he’s using and how he’s using it.”
Though steeped in mythology, Cruz also recognizes the potential to call on actual demonic forces in creating a film like this. Taking no chances with real spiritual entities, he recalls that the production also invited real spiritual practitioners onset to prepare beforehand.
“They brought in some real curanderos,” Cruz recalls. “You have to understand that, where there’s light, there’s dark. If you’re calling on these negative entities, they may appear. You don’t want any of them attaching themselves to you.”
With that in mind, Cruz hopes that audiences not only get the thrills and chills of the film, but that they also develop a deeper understanding of Latin cultural mythology in the process.
“What I hope the audience learns is a lot about Latin culture and history. This is a legend that is very real to us. It’s not based in myth. It’s actually based in people’s experiences throughout history with this entity. There have been sightings of her throughout the southwest and also New Mexico and California. There have been really horrible things that have happened. People have seen her, people have heard her.”
“That’s what makes this different from other horror films. You have a movie like Jawswhere people have had experiences with great white sharks or where there have been shark attacks. This is pretty much the same thing. There’s been La Larona attacks. People have tried to dismiss it as a ghost movie or ‘it’s just a story’, but it’s very real. And the Latin community there are stories about people who have had supernatural occurrences with her.”
The Curse of La Laronascares its way into theatres on April 19th, 2019.
For full audio of our interview with Raymond Cruz, click here.