Monday, May 05, 2008

Vamp or Not? The Curse of the Crying Woman


This 1961 Mexican horror, directed by Rafael Baledón, was mentioned on the blog by Derek when I posted about the Dark Waters DVD set. One of the things that attracted me to the film was the description of it as a Mexican re-write of Black Sunday. Now, I adore Black Sunday and I can, to be fair, see why that comparison would be drawn. However, I would say that it was only on a superficial level. Indeed the film is rather referential to several films and genre staples.

Obviously I felt there was enough about the film to warrant a ‘Vamp or Not?’, or you wouldn’t be reading this, despite the fact that the main basis for the film is the legend of La Llorona – the titular crying woman who is the ghost of a woman, wailing for her dead children and is kind of a Mexican banshee, in some respects. Our film begins with a coach travelling along a road, two men and a girl on board.

Carlos López Moctezuma as JuanThe coach halts as a scarred man, we later discover to be named Juan (Carlos López Moctezuma), attacks the coachman, throwing a dagger into his chest. The passengers disembark and Juan leaps onto one of them, throttling the poor man. We also see a woman, Selma (Rita Manedo), holding the leash of three dogs and releasing them to get the second man. The girl faints.

Rita Manedo as SelmaLet us look at Selma for a moment, for she is very striking. Her eyes are large, almond shaped and pure black. One could almost liken them to the eyes of a modern grey alien. They offer a truly creepy visage. When the two men are dead Juan whips the horse and the coach runs over the girl. It is a wonderfully creepy, violent opening and suggests that the film intends to take no prisoners.

In Selma’s hacienda she is visited by a police captain (Mario Sevilla), who is enquiring whether she heard anything in respects of the attack. She claims she did not and wonders if an animal attacked, and we should note that her eyes are, now, normal. The Captain points out that an animal would not dry up (as the subtitles put it) every drop of a victim’s blood nor would they use a knife.

Amelia and JaimeOutside we hear the police talk and they make mention of the death of Selma's husband, Dr Daniel Jaramillo (Enrique Lucero), and that she is in the house on her own but we know it is not true as Juan is there. Selma is expecting the arrival of her niece Amelia (Rosa Arenas). Cutting to a carriage we see that Amelia is with her husband Jaime (Abel Salazar) and we discover that it is the eve of her birthday.

When Amelia arrives she is told that her aunt will not be here until the evening. Her room’s mirror is covered and, when she uncovers it, she sees a black eyed woman and then a corpse’s rotten face – causing her much distress as you can imagine. She and Jaime also hear wailing from upstairs but Juan refuses to allow them access to that area of the house.

entering as a flying corpseThe scene in which we see Selma arrive is wonderful. We see a corpse like thing fly into the cellar area, straight to camera. It becomes, off camera, Selma. In the cellar is a blackened corpse, run through by a spear, which Selma refers to as the ‘distinguished lady of darkness’. Later we discover that this is Marina – the crying woman. Held in a semblance of half life and, it would seem, mother to Selma. Amelia is fated through a curse to restore her life.

Selma with Mirina's bodySo far we have a corpse like being with weird eyes, bodies drained of blood and an avoidance of daylight. The last point is a red herring as Selma is unavailable because she is caring for Marina. We discover that Selma has kept Marina in her state of undeath (as it were) by feeding her immortality through the blood of the descendants of the jury that condemned Marina.

tempted by bloodThe curse is already part of Amelia and a comment is made that soon her blood will disappear from her veins and she’ll need blood from another source. We see her tempted when Jaime cuts his hand and we see her fly into a rage at a passer by who will not help her and her eyes turning black at that point, like her aunt. We discover that the spear through Marina is actually straight through her heart and must be removed during the tolling of midnight on the turning of the youngest descendant’s twenty-fifth birthday. Restoration of Marina will offer the women immortality, indeed Selma has not aged since Amelia was sent away as a child.

Selma casts no reflectionOne of the bigger vampiric traits is in the fact that Selma casts no reflection in a mirror, something that the film shows us clearly. Later, as she succumbs, Amelia’s reflection begins to fade also. I said that the film gathers many influences and is referential, however. At one point we see Selma walk through a cobweb and not disturb it. This was clearly reminiscent of Dracula (1931).

Enrique Lucero as DanielDaniel is not dead either. He is kept locked away more beast than man. What happened to him, we do not know and although he is not quite there I couldn’t but help be reminded of the Wolf Man (in a mystical scene, which outlines Marina's history, we seem to see a werewolf figure as well). We get a moment of crap bat syndrome, strangely as there seems to be no connection with the crying woman myth in the film or generally.

using a fetishWe also see Selma use a fetish to control Jaime at one point, giving a voodoo tint to the proceedings. This is tied into a more genre normal moment of eye mojo. There is also a moment that is reminiscent of Poe and, perhaps, The Fall of the House of Usher. Despite the influences, however, this does hang together as a film in its own right.

Marina, the crying womanIt is a good film, though not as strong (or as atmospheric) as Black Sunday (or the Mexican flick El Vampiro for that matter) but it is certainly worth your time and effort (and so, many thanks to Derek for bringing it to my attention). I would also say that, despite the non-vampiric myth it is based on and the unusual premise around the lore, it deserves a place on vampire filmographies. It even has a vampire standard corruption of a corpse, quickly rotting to dust.

Incidentally there is a wonderful booklet that outlines the legend of La Llorona and her appearance in movies. I have the latest movie it lists (though I haven’t seen it yet and I believe it is most definitely not vamp and rather poor to boot) but even more special is the fact that Santo once met her – I must see that at some point.

The imdb page is here.

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