THE NUN (2018)
Directed by Corin Hardy
Written by Gary Dauberman (screenplay & story), story by James Wan
Starring Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet, Ingrid Bisu, Charlotte Hope, Sandra Teles, August Maturo, Jack Falk, Lynnette Gaza, Ani Sava, Michael Smiley, Gabrielle Downey, David Horovitch, Tudor Munteanu, Lili Bordán, Scarlett Hicks, Jared Morgan, Manuela Ciucur, Mark Steger, Emma Appleton, Jonny Coyne, Flynn Hayward, Daniel Mandehr, Samson Marraccino, Jamie Muscato, Claudio Charles Schneider, & Bonnie Aarons as The Nun!
Preparing myself for jump scares comin’ at ya’ and loud, Don Music piano bangs, I found myself rather surprised for the small amount of them in the latest installment of THE CONJURING Connected Universe, THE NUN. Instead, the film, while it does have it’s creepy, atmospheric moments, simply lacks a solid story to hang them on.
It’s 1952 and creepy shit is happening. When word that a nun has committed suicide in a secluded Budapest monastery, the Vatican sends miracle seeker Father Burke (Demián Bichir) and nun in training Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) to Romania to investigate the horrific event, sensing there is something paranormal going on there. Once arriving, they meet Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), a charming villager who discovered the nun and knows the lay of the land. The group enters the monastery, discovering dark secrets, nuns who are afraid to stop praying, and a demon who has taken the form of an evil nun named Valek.
Right off the bat, the main problem with THE NUN is that it doesn’t have a strong story. Our protagonist, Sister Irene (played by Taissa Farmiga, sister of THE CONJURING’s Vera Farmiga) simply isn’t a strong character to follow. We get a bit of character at the beginning when she airs her doubts about the convent’s views on evolution with a bunch of kids playing with dinosaurs, but that’s just not enough dissent she may have to taking her final vows to make me care. Farmiga is a fine actress. She just is never given anything meaningful to do other than look scared at things and scream occasionally. Farmiga simply has nothing to do to make her character stand out. Had there been some kind of real challenge with heft towards Sister Irene’s decision to become a nun, there might have been a bit more meat to the character. At the beginning, there is a hinted attraction between Sister Irene and Frenchie, but this conflict is never fully realized and moves far from real temptation as if the film doesn’t really want to deal with such weighty issues. Bichir is given a bit more of a backstory involving the guilt he feels about a failed exorcism he performed on a young boy, resulting in his death, but even that is secondary to the need to pile on one meaningless creepy scene after another.
The next crucial flaw of THE NUN is that the monster really isn’t that scary. At least, it’s not presented as such. I felt the same way with THE CONJURING 2, as the Nun herself simply looks like Marilyn Manson in a habit. Since the shock rocker has failed to be shocking since the 90’s, rehashing the look really never did it for me. Sure there are a few scenes where the Nun emerges from the darkness and floats towards the camera, but that seems to be the extent of her threats and the effect decreases in intensity every time it occurs (and it occurs quite frequently through the film). While the film isn’t scare free—there is a fun scene that occurs in the graveyard outside of the convent that looks and plays well because of Bechir’s performance, but these scenes are few and far between.
Thankfully, the age of the jump scare seems to be fading. Unfortunately, THE NUN doesn’t fill that void with anything else. Playing like a sanitized version of Salvi’s THE CHURCH and Mariano Baino’s DARK WATERS, THE NUN will most likely play well to those looking for hollow scares and a film you don’t think about long after it’s over. Personally, having appreciated three of the five CONJURING movies (THE CONJURING 1-2, ANNABELLE: CREATION), I find this to sadly be the weakest installment in the series.