In 2013, “The Conjuring” opened a Pandora’s box of horror as Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and his wife, Lorraine (Vera Farmiga), investigate paranormal activity at a Rhode Island farmhouse. There were demons, ghosts, a hideous and terrifying doll, a music box that played a spooky song, and much more. With that success came the expanded “Conjuring” cinematic universe, with breadcrumbs creating a new character for a new installment. Some are terrible, like “Annabelle,” and some are OK, like “Annabelle: Creation.” “The Nun” is the fifth in the series, so let’s see where this tale lies.
It starts its connection to 2016’s “The Conjuring 2” where Lorraine and previous audiences were introduced a creepy nun, and goes back 20 years earlier when this demon is haunting a Romanian monastery. It comes to the Vatican’s attention when a nun has hanged herself and is discovered by Romania’s residential Frenchman, Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet). Rome sends Father Burke (Demián Bichir) and nun-in-waiting Sister Irene (Tessa Farmiga) to the cursed monastery and land to figure out why a nun would take her life.
The rest of the movie is full of jump scares, horror movie clichés and nunnery nonsense. Burke and Irene have their own adventures in the monastery, as the reverend examines the place’s history while Irene meets with the remaining nuns on the grounds where the locals call a cursed place. For horror fans, be sure to bring a friend who has never seen a horror movie with you. Assign them the task to wake you because “The Nun” will put you to sleep. It is dull and simplistic in terms of plot and characterization. Burke and Irene fill the shoes of the Warrens in their roles as extractor and visualist, respectively. Frenchie, with flashes of bravery, arrogance and quixotic character, makes sure that the holy duo is safe with a place with a demonic nun. Hdowever, it feels very old-fashioned and unrefined.
Corin Hardy directs this latest “Conjuring” flick, becoming another up-and-coming helmer in the series who had made a low-budget Irish horror movie with a low-yielding box office haul. Bichir, Tessa Farmiga and Bloquet are better actors than what “The Nun” offers, and the links this movie tries to establish with the earlier movies are stretched out too much.
But “The Nun” is not completely useless. It is a good foundation for a new generation to like the classic scares. In fact, stay away from any other horror movie, including the other “Conjuring” ones, that have been released in the last 10 years. Well, maybe watch “The Witch” since that is above most heads as terms of horror. Thankfully, “The Nun” is better than “Annabelle,” but just barely.
1 out of 5 stars
In 2013, the success of “The Conjuring” summoned an unexpected horror franchise that has terrified audiences, introducing a world of supernatural objects and demonic entities that keep moviegoers coming back for more.
The entries of the Conjuring Universe fall into two categories. There are the ones that expand upon the original masterpiece by ramping up the suspense and scares, such as 2016’s “The Conjuring 2” and last year’s “Annabelle: Creation.” But then there’s 2014’s “Annabelle,” which took the creepy doll introduced in “The Conjuring” and stranded her in a bland, forgettable outing.
Unfortunately, “The Nun” falls into the latter category. Nearly devoid of the tension and terror the franchise is known for, the disappointing spinoff about the nightmare-inducing demon introduced in “The Conjuring 2” wastes its potential.
Like the other “Conjuring” films, “The Nun” is a period piece, this time set in 1952 in Romania. A cloister of Roman Catholic nuns are being hunted down by an evil force within their abbey. After one of the nuns is found dead, the Vatican sends in Father Burke (Demian Bichir), a priest who has performed exorcisms, and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), a nun who receives visions who has not yet taken her final vows. The two find a guide in local resident Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet).
What the three find is the demon Valak, a powerful entity who takes on the appearance of a nun (Bonnie Aarons). As the evil grows and threatens the nearby village, Father Burke, Sister Irene and Frenchie must figure out how to defeat the Nun while battling their own personal demons and testing their faith.
“The Nun” starts out promising. The atmosphere of the languishing abbey is spooky and unsettling, with dark secrets within its walls. But the film never builds a deepening sense of dread. It relies too much on jump scares, most of which are predictable.
The film has some memorable moments, usually involving the cloister of nuns. But the movie doesn’t go far enough to unnerve the audience, seeming content to settle for the familiar image of a silhouette of a nun popping up in a dark hallway. It’s a letdown from the frightening portrait scene in “The Conjuring 2” that made the Nun a standout character in the first place. The movie actually makes the Nun less scary.
With a running time of just over an hour-and-a-half, “The Nun” feels longer. The slow-paced spinoff suffers from weak storytelling, and the logic of its narrative doesn’t always add up. There’s no clear rules as to what the demonic Nun can and cannot do.
What “The Nun” does offer is solid performances. Bichir is earnest as Father Burke, a devoted man of the cloth who is haunted by his past. As Frenchie, Bloquet adds comic relief and a penchant for heroics.
Farmiga – the younger sister of Vera Farmiga, the actress who plays real-life demon hunter Lorraine Warren in both “Conjuring” movies – is excellent as Sister Irene. Farmiga brings an innocence and naivete to the character, who is wrestling with whether to take her final vows.
However, Sister Irene’s extrasensory abilities are remarkably similar to those of an existing character in “The Conjuring” franchise. The film and its timing – set about 20 years before the first “Conjuring” movie – seem to suggest a connection between both characters, but then does nothing with it. This is a perplexing move by the filmmakers, especially considering Irene’s casting.
“The Nun” does connect back to “The Conjuring” and “The Conjuring 2,” just not in a way that you might expect. But “The Nun” also isn’t as good as you might expect, either. The film commits too many sins – the most unforgivable of which is not being scary.
2 out of 5 stars