Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet, Bonnie Aarons, Charlotte Hope
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Some striking images aside, there’s little to thrill or engage here…
The Nun is the third movie that acts as a spin-off from The Conjuring series. Thus far we’ve had the appalling Annabelle (2014), the surprisingly effective Annabelle: Creation (2017) and now The Nun. So how does this latest effort stack up in the context of the larger series? Put it this way, the phrase “holy shit” springs to mind.
The Nun thinly sketches a tale starring gravel-voiced Father Burke (Demián Bichir), a priest who deals with strange cases of the supernatural. He teams up with nun-who-has-yet-to-take-her-vows, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) and local guide, Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet) as they investigate the suspicious suicide of a nun in a Romanian monastery.
Set in 1952 and partially shot on location in Transylvania, The Nun had a lot of potential to be a moody, atmospheric gothic horror flick that recalls the grand old days of Hammer Horror films or even the more modest thrills of something like Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (1999). Sadly an utterly directionless script saddles the impressive location with a bunch of stuff that just sort of happens.
Taissa Farmiga fares the best in terms of performance, although she’s mainly required to look frightened and nod guiltily when a dozen or so characters announce that she’s “yet to take her vows” (seriously, this happens a lot). Demián Bichir fails to make much of an impact, but this could be due to the fact his motivations and character traits seem to change from scene to scene, and Bloquet is fine in his comic relief role but it’s hard to raise genuine chuckles in a film this unintentionally hilarious.
Ironically, it’s titular Nun/Valak (Bonnie Aarons) who gets the shortest shrift, as she’s barely glimpsed until the end and her character is fleshed out not one whit. It’s legitimately baffling that a background monster from The Conjuring 2 is more effective in, say, five minutes of screen time in that flick than she is here in a whole bloody movie allegedly devoted to her!
Look, The Nun is a mess. Some striking images aside, there’s little to thrill or engage here and a profoundly undercooked and contradictory story will leave most audiences yawning, laughing or rolling their eyes. Worse still, the best moments are cribbed from other, much better, movies. The biggest jump scare is a riff on The Exorcist III and the climax climax flogs a major beat from Demon Knight. Why not skip this and watch those criminally underrated flicks instead?
Ultimately, The Nun is a dud. A great location and interesting premise are utterly squandered and it all ends, not with a bang but a wimple.