September 6, 2018 The Nun (Movie Review)
Few contemporary Horror movie franchises have possessed audiences like The Conjuring series. The story of these intense, demonic films continues – or begins – with The Nun, the fifth installment in The Conjuring Universe set for release on Friday, September 7, 2018 through Warner Bros. Pictures.
Written by James Wan, director of 2013’s The Conjuring and 2016’s The Conjuring 2, with Gary Dauberman (Annabelle 2014, It 2017), The Nun is an unflinchingly dark offering that tells the origin of the nun-shaped demon Valak first introduced in The Conjuring 2. Like Annabelle and Annabelle: Creation before it, The Nun relies heavily on Gothic Horror tropes, but is still packed with plenty of scares. Director Corin Hardy (The Hallow 2015) serves up some truly tense and breathless moments in this film’s ninety minutes, playing right into audience expectations and the film’s terrifying setting.
For those who may not have partaken in any of the previous Conjurings, the film provides a small primer for any uninitiated. It really is not necessary to have seen the other films as The Nun is a prequel, so feel free to jump right in with this movie if you are for some reason compelled to be pelted with relentless Catholic symbolism.
Taking place in 1952, The Nun follows Father Anthony Burke (Demián Bichir: The Hateful Eight 2015, Alien: Covenant 2017), a priest sent by the Vatican to investigate a young nun’s suspicious death by suicide at a cloistered abbey tucked away in the Romanian countryside. Can you tell where this story is going already? Sent along with him is Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga: American Horror Story series, Rules Don’t Apply 2016), a novitiate, to help Burke, the Vatican’s go-to man for demonic possessions, uncovering the suspicious happenings at Carta Monastery. Leading the two along is Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet: Elle 2016, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets 2017), an extremely charming French-Canadian who provides the audience with a blessed dose of reality. Though even in the film’s brighter moments, Hardy drops in some subtle hints – like the word “Valak” seen on a license plate – that there is no escape from the unholy evil leaking into the village surrounding the ancient monastery.
Father Burke and Sister Irene conveniently find themselves stuck at the monastery overnight, and it is not long before the titular nun begins taunting the pair and the ancient history of Valak and the monastery begins to unravel. Learning the unexplained mystery behind the monastery is easily the most interesting plot hooks in this film, with sprinkles of history woven in to give the story a realistic weight. The setting lends itself to some beautiful cinematography and plenty of shadowed, claustrophobic cloisters perfect for skulking demons.
The Nun does not waste too much time with the story build-up, instead preferring to jump right into the heavy stuff. The film slams on the gas, serving up some grisly demonic action within the first few minutes. In a film like this, the plot is held up by shaky pillars built from Gothic Horror cliches, but even so, the story is solid enough to provide the audience with plenty of moments perfect for watching from behind hands.
It is dark without being campy, serious without forgetting to take the time to be self-aware. You know what you are getting into when you walk into a movie about a demonic nun, and this film does not disappoint on its delivery. However, the film is at its most frightening when the mystery is at its most veiled. The more the audience learns about the monastery’s gruesome history, and the more money shots given of Valak, the less scares hit home.
Intensely dark – often oppressively so – the film’s much-needed comedic relief comes in the form of Frenchie. He is the audience’s anchor to the real world, serving up plenty of well-timed jokes and charm. Frenchie is a reminder to take a breath and that despite the film’s overt dark tones, there is no need to take it too seriously. Next to the demon, Frenchie is gifted with the most character development in this film, while Sister Irene is a disappointingly plain character who does not deviate in any way from the tired virgin archetype. All we really learn about Sister Irene is that she somehow possess ill-explained supernatural visions, but thankfully Farmiga’s excellent performance breathes plenty of life into a stale trope.
Even with a few stumbles and played-out tropes, The Nun provides audiences with another solid entry in a franchise that just will not quit. With several other films in the works, it seems as though The Conjuring series will not be losing steam any time soon. Backed by outstanding performances, striking cinematography, and an interesting tie-in to the other films, there is plenty here for Horror fans. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives The Nun 3.5 out of 5 stars.