As someone who is both a horror fan and a cynical lover of the movies, “The Nun” strikes an odd balance between “Now this could be interesting” and “Was this necessary?”
“The Nun” is the fifth film in the “Conjuring” cinematic universe (damn that feels weird to say) and represents the earliest point in the timeline of “The Conjuring.” It doesn’t get more mainstream horror than “The Conjuring” and its sequels and spin-offs. Not just in that it is a popular film that is easily digestible without sacrificing quality, for the most part, “The Conjuring” is actively taking part in a larger cinematic phenomenon that defines the current filmgoing experience.
I think we can all agree that Marvel really invented the wheel when it comes to things like connected cinematic universes and credits scenes. More than just a franchise trend, that bold choice has totally changed the way we watch movies. Moviegoers stay through the credits just to make absolutely sure they haven’t missed anything. More and more studios are embracing the cinematic universe formula and finding new and exciting ways to apply it. Very few, however, have seen the success that Marvel has. Except for “The Conjuring”.
For all intents and purposes, “The Conjuring” is good horror. It’s filmmaking that takes itself seriously, there is lore and scope and solid performances. Horror is so often a cheapened, throwaway genre, so good films have a way of standing out. Audiences want more and more of “The Conjuring” and all that deep digging has brought us to “The Nun.” How did she do?
“The Nun” is directed by Colin Hardy (“The Hallow”) and stars Taissa Farmiga, Demian Bichir, Jonas Bloquet, and Bonnie Aarons as the titular Nun.
As I mentioned, previously, “The Nun” marks the earliest point in the timeline of the cinematic universe of “The Conjuring”. It is an origin story, of sorts, of the demon nun that haunts the Warrens in “The Conjuring 2.” In “The Nun”, a priest haunted by his past and a novice nun are sent by the Vatican to investigate the mysterious suicide of a young nun in a Romanian convent. As you can imagine, things get really spooky during their visit.
I’ll be square with you, right out of the gate: I was very disappointed in “The Nun.”
I mentioned at the offset that I walked into this film with the question, “Is this film really necessary?”; it wasn’t necessary, which really is a shame when you consider all the potential for a really unique and frightening story.
I will give (brief) credit where credit is due: “The Nun” kicked ass on an atmospheric level. “The Nun” was serving classic gothic realness with settings pulled straight out of the likes of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” It looked spooky. So spooky, in fact, that I could see “The Nun” realistically joining the ranks of such films as Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow” in a category of films I like to call “Must Watch in October because it Just Looks Like Halloween.”
Loved the sets. Gorgeous.
In that same atmospheric vein was really beautifully composed shots and imagery. I love some good Catholic spookiness. I don’t care how many times I see a cross flip upside-down, it just gets me every time. Of course, “The Nun” did the absolute most with this lovely intersection between classic Catholic imagery and the occult. These are iconic images for a reason. They do their job well and “The Nun” used them to their best advantage.
What “The Nun” did not use to their best advantage was the cast. These performances were so flat and lifeless. The film already struggled considerably with pacing and these actors only dragged that down to a miserable crawl. Solemnity does not have to come at the sacrifice of some liveliness and emotion. Bland. Just bland.
It makes for a very redundant review, but truly my biggest criticism of “The Nun” is that it just reads as one big missed opportunity. It just wasn’t enough. There was a story but not enough of it and not in the right areas. I wanted more lore. I really wanted to understand what “The Nun” was. When stories and twists were introduced, they were just sort of picked up and put down and left me wanting more. The film touched on stories that, honestly, would have been more interesting.
Also, “The Nun” just was not scary. In true contemporary horror fashion, the jumpscare reigns supreme. However, for every jumpscare in this movie, I was only legitimately startled by one in every five. The crescendo to the scare was lackluster. The visuals were meh. There was no sense of real danger or urgency. The only creep factor that the film got right was the excellent use of shadows and darkness, creating that general sense of uneasiness and some more excellent visuals. It was creepy… but not scary.
My verdict? Unless you just really love “The Conjuring” this one is a rental. Wait for it to come to streaming, watch it on some random spooky evening, and call it good.
“The Nun” is in theaters now!
Featured image credit: Martin Maguire/ Warner Bros. Pictures
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. Bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.