Prior to The Nun’s release this week, The Conjuring Universe has made over $1.2 billion globally with it’s four current entries, two of which are spin-offs. Before The Conjuring released there were no plans on the table to build this universe, but due to the popularity of the first film and how much fans wanted to see more of the creepy Annabelle doll, the first spin-off was rushed into production and Annabelle was released a year later. We were introduced to Valak the demon nun in The Conjuring 2 (a character that was added in during reshoots) and of course New Line Cinema got dollar signs in their eyes and saw potential for another spin-off (which was then teased at the end of Annabelle: Creation). We recently posted up a timeline breakdown and ranking of this horror universe if you wish to delve more in to it.
After a nun is found hanging outside an abbey, Father Burke (Bichir) and Sister Irene (Farmiga) are sent by the Vatican to Romania to investigate further. Unbeknown to them, both were specifically chosen for this investigation due to their previous experiences with spirits . When they arrive in Romania they seek out the man who found the nun’s body, Frenchie (Bloquet), who then agrees takes them to the secluded abbey. It doesn’t take long for before the malevolent force plaguing the abbey makes itself known to Father Burke and Sister Irene and they must find a way to rid the abbey of this evil.
I’ll be the first to admit that I probably had unreasonably high expectations for this film after Valak made such an impression on me in The Conjuring 2. Her presence in that film sent shivers down my spine, most notably the scene in which her shadow walks behind Ed’s painting of her. Valak’s presence in The Nun somehow didn’t strike the same level of fear/terror in me like her brief appearance in The Conjuring’s sequel did. I can’t quite put my finger on why just yet – but a second viewing sometime in the future may be able to help shed some light on it.
Abel Korzeniowski’s score, along with Hardy’s direction, builds some incredible tension during the first act, however, the jump scares (and their build up) start to feel repetitive pretty quickly, and Hardy’s dizzying direction making the plot far too predictable with the same framing when something is about kick off. The few surprises that The Nun does deliver on are effective and pulled off really well, and when/if you see this film it’ll probably be obvious of one scene in particular I am referring to.
One of the few redeeming qualities of the film is its cinematography, courtesy of Maxime Alexandra, who has previously work on Annabelle: Creation, The Hills Have Eyes, and the upcoming Shazam! film. The dark and grim exterior shots of the abbey and surrounding areas really set the tone for the film, and despite the abbey’s large looking appearance, the interior shots feel incredibly claustrophobic and Alexandra has perfectly used the film’s setting – from the dark, candlelit hallways to the fog ladened graveyard – to convey a consistently dark tone throughout the film.
The Nun may not bring anything groundbreaking to the horror genre or The Conjuring Universe, but it’s definitely worth a watch for fans of either. Demián Bichir & Taissa Farmiga’s strong performances carry the film during its slower scenes, and ramp up the tension when things start to going south for their characters. Whilst the film is pretty predictable for the most part, there are some genuine jumps and surprises scattered throughout the film that got quite the reaction from the audience I was in – which heightened my overall experience of the film because even though I could see what was coming, lots of the audience didn’t and hearing them react was a sufficient replacement for my own lack of a reaction.
With all that said, I think The Nun might have benefited from not being an origin and should have perhaps focused on Valak’s antics just before she begins to haunt the Warrens. There’s clearly plenty of her story to be told – but I wont delve in to why for those who haven’t seen the film. I applaud Wan and Dauberman for how they managed to weave The Nun into The Conjuring Universe, with the film’s opening and closing scenes being pulled straight from earlier entries – and despite this film not being something to shout about, I’m still incredibly excited for future of this horror universe, with Annabelle 3 and The Crooked Man confirmed so far. Personally, I would love a third The Conjuring more than these spin-offs – any excuse for me to see Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga on-screen together again as the Warrens.
Directed by: Corin Hardy
Cast: Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet, Bonnie Aarons