The Nun is the worst kind of film, one showing not a hint of personality or attempt to try something new. It's rubbish or, rather, absolute Nun-sense.
How on earth did we get to The Nun? James Wan’s The Conjuring was a charming, old-school horror with an arresting visual quality and chilling, inventive set-pieces. Its success, grossing a cool $300 million plus on a $20 million budget, spawned a surprise cinematic universe that has been of mixed merit. Whilst The Conjuring 2 proved a worthy sequel, Annabelle and Annabelle: Creation were much less inspiring. Now Valak, the demon nun who showed up briefly in Conjuring 2, has a spin-off of her own. Unfortunately, Corin Hardy’s film is painfully by the numbers. Though Hardy is a promising filmmaker, this outing shows no sign of individual character or originality.
For starters, the photography is uninteresting, with a drab colour palette that lacks the delightful syrupy-ness of the franchise’s main instalments. The story doesn’t get much better, either. Gary Dauberman’s script makes for an entirely hollow product. Everything is competent, yes, but The Nun doesn’t tap into any real fears. It’s nowhere near scary enough, especially considering how frightening the character of Valak has previously been, ultimately feeling like an empty and unnecessary exercise in worldbuilding.
The story takes place in Romania, 1952. A grisly suicide at the Cârța Monastery alerts the attention of the Vatican, who dispatch Father Burke (Demián Bichir), a priest with a past in exorcisms, and the young Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), a nun still in training, chosen for this particular mission because of her supernatural visions. Once there, the pair meet up with Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet) – the intended comic relief – and explore the dark forces plaguing the monastery. Playing it straight as an arrow both in style and narrative seems a deliberate choice by Hardy and writers Wan and Dauberman. A homage to horror of the past, the likes made by Hammer back in the 1960s. The problem is, the homage feels surface level. There’s no genuine dread here, with the jump scare formula tirelessly relied upon once again. It’s becoming tedious in itself to complain about jump scares, yet when they’re this conventional the bad taste still lingers. Fear, however, does not. Though the Conjuring films are full of jumpy moments, Wan’s skilful direction is often able to produce fresh twists on a well-worn technique. Those films are as fun as they are scary. The Nun is neither. Somehow, at only 96 minutes long, it still manages to bore.
Farmiga is convincing as the plucky Irene, but every character is one-note. We don’t care about them at all. Bichir feels overly theatrical – again, even if this is by design, it’s not effectively executed. The humour is so bad that it’s occasionally funny, with one specific line concerning the Blood of Christ bound to get a chuckle at the very least. That line is probably the only thing memorable about The Nun. It adds little to the Conjuring canon, and even less to horror cinema. Bland, bland, bland.
The Nun (2018), directed by Corin Hardy, is distributed in the UK by Warner Bros Entertainment, certificate 15.