James Wan has succeeded in developing a horror franchise that is not only successful with critics and audiences, it is also ever expanding, providing us with a wealth of stories just waiting to scare and entertain our senses. The Conjuring is probably still my favorite movie of his. It is a pitch perfect film that is executed with precision and careful attention to the characters and suspense.
The sequel to The Conjuring provided more of the same and, while I felt it was overstuffed with villains, the emotional connection to the family kept me invested. The first spinoff, Annabelle, wasn’t well received, but the follow-up, Annabelle: Creation, was a marked improvement that frightened even me and that’s saying something. While the cinematic universe of The Conjuring has had different filmmakers tackle various characters and entities, the tone has almost always remained constant. A foreboding element that kept you on your toes and made you perpetually wonder when the other shoe would drop. No matter how many times they scare you out of a calming silence, they somehow find a way to make it work even when you anticipate it. So even though Annabelle was the worst of the franchise, I believe it still held value in its atmosphere and storytelling. Although with this latest entry, the quality in both areas may have a taken a sharp nosedive.
In The Nun, directed by Corin Hardy, an abbey in 1952 Romania has suffered the loss of one of its nuns and Father Burke (Demian Bichir) has been assigned by the Vatican to investigate the site and determine if its grounds are still holy. He requests the assistance of a nun in training named Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga). With the help of Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), a local grocer, they navigate their way through the village and into the forest where the abbey resides. As soon as they arrive, it is immediately clear that nothing is as it seems. Reality takes a
This movie makes a point of emphasizing its connection to The Conjuring 2. It takes us back to when the demon that terrorized Lorraine Warren at the Amityville home first appeared. We get some backstory to its origin, but it’s not presented in a very compelling way. In fact when they finish explaining where and why this demon arose, I found I didn’t care. Not because the demon isn’t interesting. The demon has a menacing presence throughout. The film just does not give you the impression this story is worth paying attention to. There also really isn’t enough story to justify this as a feature film. It’s at best a short film and it doesn’t do any favors to the Conjuring lore. It rushes through every instance of dramatic tension and leaves you crossing your arms in frustration. What little scares you do get are immediately sidelined by poor comedic writing, rough editing, and subpar cinematography. Once you finish this movie, you still won’t be entirely sure what the story really is, outside of some nuns being harassed by a demon. The main characters have their own backstories, but it doesn’t add to the plot at all. Throw in some inconsistent scenes and you’ll be completely lost in the absurdity of this adventure. It is that convoluted.
My biggest grievance with this film is its deviation from the tone that has been constant across the franchise. Instead of a horrifying tale of survival and terror with undertones of humor, we get an overtly funny horror film that takes all the clever elements we’ve come to appreciate and ruins them with cliche editing techniques, out of place one-liners, and no style whatsoever. It also takes interesting plot devices and overplays them so much that they are less a part of the story and stand out as merely a plot device. I want to blame the writer, Gary Dauberman, but, as I review his other works, I can see that he has talent. The real problem lies in the direction.
Corin Hardy is not a proven director in my opinion. He has film credits, but nothing that would indicate he can deliver a horror film. Not that you need a horror background to make a horror movie, but it helps to have some work for us to look at to ascertain your vision and determine whether its worth investing in your future projects.
The Nun is an unfortunate departure from previous Conjuring sequels and spinoffs. It tries to be its own movie and falls flat in the process. Every connection to the Conjuring in this movie only devalues it further. I can see tinges of a better story beneath this mediocre one, but even that can’t save it from all its flaws and plot holes. Yes there are several plot holes. Enough that they would inspire a whole other article, if I cared enough to keep writing about this disappointment. Taissa Farmiga does a good job as the heroine. I think she did the best she was given to work with. I don’t recommend seeing this in the theaters, but if you are curious I suggest letting it emerge across your preferred streaming platform in several months to avoid wasting money on it. It does have some bare minimum value in horror if you only pay attention to the paint-by-numbers story and view it more as a modern day B movie. If you start to remember that this connects to the Conjuring, you are going to have a bad time. In keeping with this movie’s many problems, I thought I’d honor its bad dialogue with a cheesy one-liner. I hope this franchise doesn’t make a habit of this.
About The Nun
Synopsis: A priest with a haunted past and a novice on the threshold of her final vows are sent by the Vatican to investigate the death of a young nun in Romania and confront a malevolent force in the form of a demonic nun.
Director: Corin Hardy
Writer: Gary Dauberman
Stars: Demian Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet
Runtime: 1 Hour, 36 Minutes