“The Nun” Review

Francisco Melendez, E23 Reporter

“The Nun” is interesting to examine because it shows how a great horror movie premise can be so completely wasted. The movie serves as a prequel to the critically acclaimed Conjuring franchise, and, in theory, was meant to serve as an origin story for the character Valak from “Conjuring 2”, in the same way that the first “Annabelle” was meant to explain the origins of the doll from the other “Conjuring” movies. The film featured Corin Hardy (“The Hallow”) as director, as well as Taissa Farminga (“American Horror Story”, “Higher Ground”), Demián Bichir (“The HAteful Eight”, “A Better Life”), and Jonas Bloquet (“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”, “Elle”) as the three leads. All of this should have made a decent horror movie, but that isn’t the case.

The plot follows Sister Irene (Farminga) and Father Burke (Bichir), two religious figures who are asked by the Vatican to investigate a nun’s suicide in the small Cârța Monastery in Romania. Frenchie, the delivery man who discovered the suicide, accompanies them. Right from the start, mysterious things start happening around the abbey, as the characters unveil the origins of Valak. However, if you think this sounds like an interesting plot, you would be wrong.

This movie starts with promise, but by the time the plot gets going, it becomes clear that it has barely anything to deliver. While there’s a promise that the story will be about Valak’s origins, the actual plot is mostly focused on the new characters. Granted, they’re played really well, but there’s so much time spent on them that the ghost gets no time to shine, and the few scenes with paranormal beings in them aren’t scary. Most of the scary imagery is looking at nuns walk around in their habits, with shadows covering their faces, and some fake looking snakes and ghost children.

Speaking of which, the effects in this movie are really bad. In any other instance, this could be overlooked, but in a horror movie (where a large part of the scares are supposed to come from what’s on screen), the bad CGI makes the ghosts look like an old video game, and it never feels like a real demon is attacking the characters. However, this movie’s favorite attempt at a scare is simply using jump scares. There’s multiple scenes where characters are walking in a dark area, with only a small source of light, with the sound completely muted, only for the sounds to come in at maximum volume. The moments are never scary, and only trick the audience into reacting because of a loud sound.

The biggest problem with the movie, however, is the tone, which switches from comedic horror to dramatic horror way too often. The character of Frenchie is the best exemplifier of this issue; whenever he comes into a scene he brings a lot of comedy with him that throws the rest of the movie’s tone off. There’s a scene where Father Burke is fighting off a demonic being, and it’s treated very dramatically by the director, only for Frenchie to come in and club the demon’s head off in an explosive fashion with a rifle’s handle. Not only that, but there’s a long stretch of time in the movie when everything is taking itself very seriously, only for it to cut to Frenchie at a bar with a huge cross next to him. While comic relief can be good for a movie, it all depends on the timing and the overall tone the movie wants to create. In a movie like “Get Out”, the “horror” is never trying to be dark in atmosphere, but rather in theme. The comedy relief moments don’t seem out of place. This is helped by Rod Williams’ character interrupting the movie from time to time with a comedic subplot that pays off well in the end. In contrast, “The Nun” decides to insert its comedy into the story randomly, and it only uses Frenchie to do this. In the beginning, Irene seems to have a comedic edge to her too, but after the initial scene with the little girls, all of her comedic moments are with Frenchie. The problem with having all of the comedy tied to this one character is that it creates an imbalance, where the whole movie is very serious and dark, except for this one guy who wouldn’t be out of place in an action comedy.

With all of this being said, is there an audience for this movie? Well, in my screening most people were really enjoying it. They clapped, laughed and cheered the characters on, and appeared to have a good time with it, so it may have an audience, if you go in with the right expectations. This isn’t a movie to watch if you’re looking for a true horror experience (for that, you’re better off watching “Hereditary” or “A Quiet Place” on DVD), but it may be better suited for anyone looking for an action romp with a horror edge. However, I can’t recommend this film to anyone else. Unless you’re dying to see every movie in the “Conjuring” universe, I would say skip this, and even then, I would say you’re better off avoiding the disappointment this film is sure to bring.

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