It's better than Annabelle, at least.
Nuns are scary. Maybe not to the same level as something like clowns, bees or hearing the phrase ‘we need to talk,’ but still pretty scary.
Which is why making a movie called The Nun is actually a pretty good idea. Tying it into the Conjuring universe? Even better.
We were first introduced to the demon-possessed nun in The Conjuring 2, as it was an antagonist that Vera Farmiga’s character eventually defeated by learning its name was Valak and then reciting that name at the right time (I still don’t really understand why that worked, but whatever).
Now, we’re going back to the origins of Valak, so we can understand how everything lead up to that crucial moment. You know, because the one thing that the horror genre needs is more origin stories.
From director Corin Hardy (The Hallow), The Nun is set in the 1950s, despite the fact that they want you to believe this is a full-on period piece that takes place way back in the 1500s. It’s not. There are motorized cars, radios and everything.
Deep in the backwoods of Romania sits an old, seemingly abandoned monastery that none of the nearby villagers like to visit or even talk about. Everyone thinks it’s haunted and wants to steer clear as much as possible.
Everyone except for Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet, and yes, his character’s name is actually Frenchie), that is. He’s the one villager who visits the building on a regular basis, as it’s his job to drop off food for the nuns to eat.
He’s never actually seen any of the nuns in the monastery, nor has he seen any sort of life.
That all changes, however, when he finds a deceased nun hanging from a rope in front of the building. Scared out of his mind, he quickly calls the Catholic Church to tell them what has happened.
As is procedure when this kind of thing happens, the church sends a team to investigate. Father Burke (Demián Bichir) and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) are selected, despite the fact that Irene really isn’t a sister at all as she hasn’t taken her vows yet. There’s some throw-away line at the very beginning that explains why she was chosen, I think, but it went right over my head and was never brought up again.
They arrive and, sure enough, they quickly realize that the village right and there is some kind of evil lurking in these halls.
An evil that is trying to eek out into the rest of the world. Given that there doesn’t seem anybody else around to contain that evil (the nuns supposedly living inside just kind of disappear and reappear at any given time), it means that it’s up to the two of them to figure out how to stop this demon from escaping.
Which is a fine premise for The Nun. I might have problems with certain things inside of the movie (or lack of, which we’ll unpack), but there’s at least an idea here that could be turned into a creepy horror movie.
To The Nun’s credit, there are indeed times when it is able to do that. The best parts of The Nun are when they’re simply focusing on the gothic setting of the place, as this set-up allows for a creepy atmosphere that can really get under your skin and, at times, actually does. That’s what I wanted more of.
Or maybe I just wanted more of something, anything, that I could grasp on to with The Nun. The real problem here is that this movie is pretty hollow.
The initial set-up is fine and all, but the film slows to a grinding halt the minute that the main characters enter into the monastery. It then becomes a poorly paced film that hits nearly every cliché in the book (not as bad as The Devil’s Doorway, which deals with similar subject matter, I’ll admit) without ever really going anywhere.
There are attempts for the plot and characters to have some kind of development, sure. Father Burke is struggling to accept some mistakes he’s made in his past life as a priest and Sister Irene is trying to comprehend this special gift that she’s believed to be given.
There are even pretty good performances to go along with that too. Casting Taissa Farmiga in this role is a stroke of genius, not only because her sister picks up the mantle of her character in The Conjuring, but also because Taissa Farmiga is just a really good actress in general. Demián Bichir isn’t bad in the role, and while the script calls for Jonas Bloquet to be the annoying comic-relief character — even though his jokes aren’t funny and this movie really didn’t need any comedy — his charisma overcomes a lot of that.
The thing is, The Nun can’t stay focused on any of that for too long. As soon as it looks like the story might actually go somewhere, it just falls back on cheap jump-scares that got on my nerves after awhile.
To be fair, the last twenty minutes or so pick up and actually went somewhere worth going. I like the climax, resolution and the way that it all ties into The Conjuring after that.
It’s all just a little bit too late at that point, as there’s not enough substance within The Nun that make it feel like anything more than a glorified cash-grab. A cash-grab with some ominous and well-done cinematography, sure, but still a cash-grab nonetheless.
We don’t reach Annabelle levels of bad with this one — which is a movie I pray I never have to sit through again (even though I'm slightly excited for the third one) — but I’d call it right on par with Annabelle: Creation in the fact that they’re both fine. Nowhere near the quality of James Wan’s Conjuring movies, of course, but also not bad enough where I come out of the theater angry at what I just saw. It’s just fine.
Watch the trailer for The Nun here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought about the film!
'The Nun' review: I hope y'all like jump scares5