“The Nun” Movie Review


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     As with any successful horror franchise, the decision makers behind them want to ensure the coffers remain full.  And the quickest most expedient method to do so is obviously making more films set within or around the respective storylines of the original.  Both 2013’s “The Conjuring” and it’s sequel, 2016’s “The Conjuring 2” reinvigorated familiar horror tropes and created a seemingly endless array of possibilities for future installments, given the films centered on real life 1970s ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren and their most widely known cases.  The fact one of the opening scenes in “The Conjuring” reveals a secured room in the couple’s home full of demonized relics from the past, was a certain indication there were already budding plans for a “Conjuring” universe.  

     2014’s “Annabelle”, a subpar attempt at giving minor “Conjuring” characters their own spin off, began the process of establishing a horror universe two year before “The Conjuring 2” arrived in theaters.  “Annabelle: Creation” followed in 2017, which leads the series to its latest installment, “The Nun “, an origin story based on the frightening demonic spirit which terrorized the Warrens in “The Conjuring 2”.  Of course, what made the chief antagonist of that film so effectively scary was how little we actually saw.  The painting itself could easily serve as a source of nightmares, allowing for both the characters and the audience to feel the spirit’s presence without actually being in the scene.  With that, origin stories can be a tough sell, as there is really no way around the need to visually depict the character we are learning about.

     And that’s where “The Nun” begins to falter since the consistent up close and personal encounters reveal nothing more than something resembling one of the zombies in Michael Jackson’s thriller video dressed up as a nun.  Of course, the many scenes within a graveyard setting seem to reenforce that thought on a consistent basis.  It also doesn’t help when those comically overused horror cliches become the crutch of nearly every scene.  Convenient aspects of the narrative put the characters in positions to fail, whereas anyone with any common sense would either go the other direction or get as far away from the potential source of harm as they possibly could.  There’s absolutely nothing funnier in a horror film these days, then when the characters make dumb decisions.

     Set in Romania in the year 1952, the story begins with a nun taking her own life as an entire abbey has been overrun by an evil spirit, leaving the once holy place as a dark and deserted crumbling building in what appears to be the middle of nowhere.  In other words, a great setting for a horror movie!  A local from a distant town happens upon the building and discovers the hanging corpse of the nun, deciding to move her body into the building’s refrigerator until authorities can arrive.  Word of the incident spreads to the Vatican, who then dispatches Father Burke (Demian Bichir), a priest who investigates miracles and otherworldly occurrences.  Accompanying him is Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), a nun who, as we are told countless times throughout, has yet to take her vows, and doesn’t appear to have any business in this story whatsoever (Taissa is the younger sister of Vera who plays Lorraine Warren in “The Conjuring”).  The duo arrives in Romania and connects with Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), the local who found the body of the dead nun.

     They make their way to the abbey, and as you might expect, the creep factor is ratcheted up to full volume the second they enter the secluded building’s dark and creaky rooms.  The person that greets them is a cloaked figure who speaks in the voice of an older woman and sits on a throne located in the center of the main room.  They never see her face, nor do they know who she is or what standing she has within the abbey.  And yet, when she tells them they must stay the night because the answers they are looking for won’t reveal themselves until the next day, they happily comply.  If it’s me, I’m hightailing it outta there!  You can always come back right?  But of course, these lame and over serious characters decide to stay, setting up the obligatory “things that go bump in the night scenarios” we’ve seen in countless films before, including both “The Conjuring” and “The Conjuring 2”.

     While the director of “The Conjuring” films, James Wan, was off hopefully saving the DC Universe with the upcoming “Aquaman”, Corin Hardy takes the reigns on this one, with a screenplay by “It” scribe Gary Dauberman.  But the filmmakers are unable to recreate the tone and underlying feeling of dread that allowed the previous films in the series to set themselves apart from the $5 Walmart Blu ray bin where you typically find the kind of horror film “The Nun” actually is.  There is not one notable set piece to be found in its 96 minute running time , nor is there anything someone over the age of about 12 would consider scary.  Now I’m not gonna say the third act is preposterous since we are talking about fictional things which don’t exist anyway, but the manner in which the situation is resolved completely defies any kind of logic the film might’ve hoped to have.  There is welcome connective tissue presented both at the beginning and the end that links the events in the film with “The Conjuring” films, but all that really does is remind you of the sharp drop in quality we have just witnessed.  GRADE: D