[Author's note]: Portions of this review were originally posted on June 21, 2008. Unfortunately, at that time, Monterey Video sent DVD Talk a screener copy of The Cry that did not represent the final product. At the end of January 2009, we received the commercial release of The Cry to look at. This review has been revised and now reflects the DVD commercially available from Monterey.
There is no rest for a mother who murders her child
The Cry begins with one of those textual narrative introductions that often precede films involving a historical moment or legend. Here, the viewers are provided some background on La Llorona, a myth about the specter of a woman who drowned her child after discovering her husband cheated on her. Apparently, this specter roams around trying to convince mothers to kill their children, or cons kids to come close to a body of water and drowns them herself. These mothers La Llorona contacts are encouraged to cry with the ghost - hence the title of the film.
As far as folklore goes, this is obviously a distressing story. And, it's treated quite well - for a while - in this independent horror film.
The main character of The Cry is Alex Scott, a New York City police detective investigating a series of missing and murdered children cases that have baffled the police. Scott, it's discovered over the course of the film, has a driving interest in the case as his own son was murdered by his wife, who then committed suicide. Scott's investigations eventually lead him to the spiritual, as a conversation with a priest directs him to talk to a woman who dabbles in issues the church will not.
Interwoven with Scott's story is the story of Maria, apparently a single mother who is receiving visions of the victims. She manically sketches them in her apartment. Through happenstance, Maria nearly collides with Scott - literally - on the streets, but the protagonists are not really paired together until the film's climax.
There's a lot to praise in The Cry. With a running time of 81 minutes, it's well-paced. Establishing shots of New York City are nicely done and capture the feel of the city. The score and soundtrack are effective, highlighted by several Spanish-language numbers that fit well with the film's narrative. And, this movie's screenplay is very much centered on developing its characters - and I often find that the best low budget horror movies do this.
Most importantly, the acting is surprisingly solid all around. Christian Camargo, who plays the lead detective Scott, is particularly good, evincing the haunted nature of his character without overdoing it. Even the child actors are convincing - no easy feat considering how often directors complain about the difficulties of working with the very young.
Unfortunately, the final act of this movie devolves into a poorly-lit and clumsily-edited mess. While the premise and characters of The Cry are developed well, it felt as though the filmmakers didn't know how to end the movie. Thus, the last 15 or so minutes of the movie involve a lot of running around in Central Park at night and several completely unnecessary off-camera kills, including the death of an important secondary character. What was an atmospheric take on the subject matter ends up becoming second rate slasher material by the end.
Despite The Cry's letdown of an ending, it was still an interesting character-driven horror film and one that's at least worth renting.
Monterey Video gives The Cry an anamorphic widescreen presentation. The image is colorful but the visual quality varies a bit, with video noise and artifacts noticeable throughout. An aerial shot of the city looks particularly weak.
The sole audio track is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 affair. It sounds quite strong, with dialogue always clear. Whispered comments come across well, heightening the suspense in some scenes. Optional subtitles in Spanish are available.
Trailers precede the main menu for Steel Toes, The Cellar Door, and Karla. All three are presented in anamorphic widescreen and available through an Other Great DVDs link in the menu system. A separate link provides access to a trailer for The Cry.
Additional extras include a too short Thoughts From the Director (2:10), which has Bernadine Santistevan discussing the genesis of her movie while stills are shown on the screen. I would have liked to have heard more from her than what's contained in these 2 minutes. About the Legend (3:14) provides textual background on the legend of La Llorona accompanied by stills and samples from the score. This was interesting to read. Finally, there's La Llorona Short (6:35), a short film by Santistevan featuring several individuals telling different versions of the La Llorona myth.
Collectively, the extras are intriguing. It's too bad a director's commentary track wasn't recorded, as I would have liked to have heard Santistevan elaborate upon the making of the movie.
Moody and atmospheric, with some solid acting to boot, The Cry has an effective build-up that's let down by a conventional and poorly-realized conclusion. It's still worth checking out as a creepy low budget independent horror feature.