WARNER BROS. PICTURES (2018)
Director: Corin Hardy
Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Demián Bichir, Jonas Bloquet, Bonnie Aarons
You get a spin off! YOU gets a spin off! EVERYONE GETS A SPIN OFF!!
As The Conjuring Universe grows with it parent movies, the offshoots are beginning to come quick and fast with two Annabelle movies, an upcoming The Crooked Man movie and now The Nun (still waiting for The Clap Game full-feature). Having made her full debut in 2016’s The Conjuring 2, the demon Valak – aka The Nun – has risen in prominence within the franchise and now she is unleashed upon more unsuspecting victims.
Set in 1952 Romania, decades before The Conjuring, Father Burke (Bechir) and nun in novitiate Sister Irene (Farmiga) are sent to a decrepit monastery in the forests after the mysterious suicide of one of the nuns that resided there. Rumours of evil emanating from the monastery have been common folklore for generations in the local towns, and town resident/farmer Frenchie (Bloquet) knows of these more than most. It’s he who found the gruesome-looking body and he is tasked with ensuring the Warriors of God reach their destination. Strange goings-on begin to occur and as the secrets of the dark are unravelled, as too is the evil demon Valak (Aarons) – and she’s not best pleased again.
Despite the fact that the movies are box office gold, The Conjuring Universe has so far delivered a mixed bag of results. The Conjuring and Annabelle: Creation were great horror movies (or at least, very decent) whereas Annabelle and The Conjuring 2 were…not so great. The Nun was billed as the “darkest chapter” so far and the gothic horror design certainly added weight to this claim. Whether it is true is up for debate, however, the movie itself falls right in the middle – it’s not great, but it’s not awful. There are signature franchise moments (hidden evils lurking in washing…, entities appearing in the corner of dark rooms…) that work well and stylistically, the movie looks great. However, the surprises are lacking and the scares are low – the tie-ins are there, but it’s very much a stand-alone that offers very little in the way of innovation.
With big sister Vera leading the way as Lorraine Warren, little sister Taissa takes the reins for this instalment (and there’s a ridiculous sibling likeness) as the light side defending Nun-to-be Irene. Though any link is tenuous at best given the info we already know, having the two real-life siblings not be connected in this franchise would be…odd, given the casting choices. Younger Farmiga ably leads the way along with a very good Demián Bechir and Bonnie Aarons striking features cast a creepy image as the titular baddy.
An old monastery in rural Romania sounds creepy enough, but The Nun does a great job of bringing out the creepy factor in its setting. The sprawling rooms and stone floors presented ghostly echoes and the claustrophobic crucifix filled corridors had an air of menace to them. The graveyard, whilst clichéd and swathed in mist (because…), provided a handy secondary location and lent the feeling of some old school horror to the movie. The story was nothing scintillating, however, and whilst the third act begins with promise, it ends in lacklustre disappointment. It isn’t surprising to reveal the majority of the terror is attempted in the form of cheap jump scares and they really aren’t all that effective.
As an attempt to expand the mythology and lore surrounding the franchise, The Nun didn’t bring an awful lot to the table – there are hints, nods, and a few tangible links, but this functions better more as a standalone than connective tissue. There are effective moments and it sure looks good, however, through the shadows and Jesus blood, The Nun is simply just a half-decent affair.
September 15th 2018