The Nun – Movie Review – Nun-thing Special.

James Wan’s Conjuring franchise has somewhat organically developed into a Cinematic Universe of its own, with a couple a spin off’s surrounding the creepy porcelain doll, Annabelle. Next in line to receive the spin off treatment is Valak, the demon from The Conjuring 2 that dresses in Nun attire.

Set in Romania in 1952, The Nun tells the story of a priest and a novice who is soon expected to take her final vows, as they are sent by the Vatican to investigate the apparent suicide of a young nun.

Valak, the demon at the centre of this film gave writer Gary Dauberman and director Corin Hardy the ammunition to create an interesting and relativity unique narrative that took advantage of it’s setting. Unfortunately all of that potential was wasted, because the story that is presented in this film is flat and uninspired. I found myself bored for the majority of the film and that’s mainly because it surrenders to so many of the horror genre’s typical narrative conventions. Also with being a part of The Conjuring universe, I expected it to expand on the mythology of the universe that has been constructed so far, at least in some way or another but the script fails to do so. I’ve learned next to nothing when it comes to new information about Valak. The tiny backstory that they attempt to deliver is so minimal and is presented in such a rushed couple minutes of exposition, it just made it feel like an after thought when it should’ve been one of the key focuses of the film. Another thing I noticed is I found it difficult to understand the boundaries between what was real and what was supernatural. Things just happen through out the film with very little clarity as to what is actually occurring. Multiple times I found myself thinking the characters were experiencing some form of hallucination, due to the broken logic of the scene but it turns all these things were literally happening, not figuratively.

The actors weren’t given a whole lot to work with either, we learn very little about each individual over the course of the film. Taissa Farmiga portrays Sister Irene, who has almost completed her journey to become a nun, but a part from that little bit of information, I know nothing else about her which is poor when you consider she is supposed to be the main character. There’s a little more information given about Father Burke, portrayed by Demián Bichir but there’s still no concrete development for his character from the start of the film to the end. Jonas Bloquet is charismatic as Maurice, a person who accompanies Irene and Burke during their investigation. He’s a little less one note than the others but all of his attempts at humour fail.

Maxime Alexandre brought the settings to life with his cinematography, the majority of the scenes were lit and shot in a manner that was atmospheric, but it’s a shame that atmosphere didn’t translate to suspense and terror. There’s a couple scenes that take place among a graveyard in a woodland area, those stood out in particular due to the great use of lighting and fog. The film in many ways felt like a Halloween horror maze experience in terms of how the camera would often manoeuvre it’s way around the sets, this especially rings true in the films final act where things begin to get a little crazy. The director mainly relies on jump scares as his way of frightening the audience, but all of the jump scares were too predictable. If you are making a commercial horror film that relies on jump scares and they don’t even work, then that’s a problem. Especially if you aren’t focusing on building up a sustained amount of suspense through out the film. There is one scene that emulates the signature scene with Valak from The Conjuring 2 but aside from that the scares lack the level of finesse James Wan always delivers.

I’m an admirer of the key theme in the musical score that is used whenever Valak’s presence can be felt, it’s very foreboding and effective as a composition on it’s own. But because Valak rarely shows up we rarely get to hear it, and when the demon does appear, the constant reliance on visual effects to alter the look of the demon’s face, often breaks the level of dread the score would’ve otherwise built up.

Overall The Nun is a faltering effort to give us a film about a popular demon from one of the previous franchise entries. It’s failure to expand upon the existing mythology makes this film feel unnecessary, and whatever potential this film possessed, is lost amongst an abundance of predictable jump scares and an underwritten script.

★★

(2 Stars Out of 5)

-T.Graham.

The Nun – Starring  Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga and Jonas Bloquet.

Directed by Corin Hardy.

Now showing in Cinemas.

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