by Kevin Muller
The Nun is the new entry in The Conjuring cinematic universe. It expands upon the legend of an evil spirit that takes the form of a hideous nun. The universe has been the go to for those who want to be dropped into a world of the supernatural, instead of one full of superheroes. Annabelle was the first standalone film based on the findings of real life couple Ed and Lorraine Warren. Of course, major liberties have been taken, but each of these films follow the same beats as the ones that proceed them. Does this one add anything new to the universe or is it just one that will get lost in the shuffle as more of these are to be made in the near future?
At the Carta Monastery, two nuns encounter the evil entity, known as Valak, which ends in their unfortunate demise. The Vatican learns of this incident and sends Father Burke, played by Demian Bichir, along with the innocent and wide eyed Sister Irene. Irene still hasn’t taken her vows and worried she may not be suitable for this mission. The two arrive in Romania, where they meet Maurice “Frenchie” Theriault, who is given both the duties of being the slight comic relief and love interest for the Irene. It really doesn’t go anywhere, but it is always nice to see two young attractive people flirt in the midst of death and sorrow. See, Maurice was the one who discovered one of the nuns bodies hanging from the Monastery and acts as a guide for the two. Once they get to the Monastery, all hell breaks loose and they start to learn more about Valak and how to stop him.
While The Conjuring 2 was filmed in England, one of the strengths of this film, is how it takes advantage of its filming location. The country of Romania is beautifully represented under the eye of cinematographer Maxime Alexandre. He is no stranger to the horror genre, he worked on the Annabelle: Creation and the remake of The Hills of Eyes. The atmosphere of the film possesses an old school and authentic feel. You actually feel like you are there, as opposed to it feeling like a studio or somewhere in America doubling for the country. For the first 30 minutes, the film does match Alexandre’s eye to detail. The typical jumps scares are scarce and the build up to what they will face in that monastery does feel very true and terrifying. Some of the horror action pieces rely more on genuine fear than cheap tactics like a character popping out of nowhere or a tricks with the sound editing.
Unfortunately, as the movie progresses, it starts to surrender to those typical tactics that this series, and most Hollywood horror these days, thinks is the definition of true horror. The acting here isn’t anything to write home about either. Taissa Farmiga has the job of carrying this movie on her shoulders, and she does an okay job. Her innocence and girl next door look do the film both a justice and injustice throughout the ninety minutes. You can’t help to feel complete sympathy for her when she is thrown into situations where she faces Valak. Farmiga completely sells the innocent and virginal nature of the character. Unfortunately, there are times when that acting style is completely misplaced. There is a part where she is being informed of the history of Valak. The fear in her eyes would be justified if it happened at the end of the story. At that point, it comes off weird that she would be reacting to a story that hasn’t even begun to be told. Demian Burke is fine as Father Burke. His side story with him being haunted by the apparition of a boy who died under his watch, is oddly placed. The side plot should give the movie a much needed dimension, but it kind of comes off as cheap and an excuse to throw the poor father into the jump scare tactics. The one bright spot here, but with some flaws, is Maurice. Even though his romantic interest in Irene, who is a dedicated nun, is placed there for cute moments, he completely sells the charming nature of the character. He also acts as the character who reacts to horrific situations with humor. Actor Jonas Bloquet does a fine job at selling both these qualities of the character.
As of the date of this review, the movie has raked in 109 million dollars, so it obviously is shielded from any type of criticism. It isn’t a terrible picture, there have been many other bad movies released this year. This is one that is just lazy, predictable, and should’ve been a lot better than it turned out to be. Since the movie has made so much money, don’t expect the future films, in this universe, to break the formula that these movies are built on. We are going to be haunted by more of the same.
I am giving The Nun a 2.5 out of 5 Hair Pieces.