The Nun scares and entertains but don’t think too hard about it

The Nun, photo credit: Martin Maguire via WB Media Pass
The Nun, photo credit: Martin Maguire via WB Media Pass /
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A prequel to The Conjuring franchise, The Nun offers up enough frightening images to satisfy unless you’re looking for a story. In that case it falls flat.

Ever since the demon Valek dressed in a nun’s garb appeared in The Conjuring 2, fans have eagerly awaited its teased spin-off. The demon nun was an antagonist in the second Conjuring and appeared in Annabelle: Creation both in a cameo picture and in the end credits. The terrorizing presence Valek created in his original appearance, and the constant build-up to the character had many thinking that The Nun was going to be one of the scariest films of 2018. Set in a demonic Jack-in-the-Box, it certainly has it’s scary moments. Ninety-six minutes of jump scare hell.

Loosely based on real-life events, The Nun takes place in 1952 Romania, in an abbey hidden in the woods. The demon it’s about, Valek, is a real demon (though his name is spelled Valac) who is a president of Hell that summons and controls serpents, and he’s wasted in this movie.

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American Horror Story’s Taissa Farmiga stars as a picture of purity novitiate who’s sent to accompany a tormented priest played by Demian Bichir to investigate the suicide of a nun. The two are joined by a somewhat free-spirited French-Canadian man named Frenchie, played by Belgian actor Jonas Bloquet, who has the hots for Farmiga. The three create a straightforward trio that’s either separated or awkwardly staring at each other in a dark hallway.

The beginning is brief and details a quick method of getting the characters to the abbey without wasting too much time, but it comes off as futile. Doesn’t make much sense, but let’s not overthink it.

Sister Irene (Farmiga) and Father Burke (Bichir) are instantly aware of the supernatural energy of the abbey and it doesn’t take long until the terror begins. Its runtime is 96 minutes and about 80 minutes of that runtime is the characters creeping around the Monastery, losing years off their lives with each horrible thing they run into. The story jumps in all directions trying to convey the evil living within the Monastery.

Its plot can be summed up into two sentences: a Duke obsessed with summoning the likes of Hell built the Monastery and created a doorway into Hell that released Valek. Sister Irene and her two companions must close the gateway before the demon finds a way out.

That’s not just a sum up, it’s pretty much how deep the plot goes. They spread that story out for an hour and 36 minutes minutes.

The Nun, photo credit Justin Lubin via WB Media Pass
The Nun, photo credit Justin Lubin via WB Media Pass /

With a promising opening, the movie hastily sets up the story that the writers probably didn’t put too much thought in, and then it falls into a middle that lasts forever. The climax doesn’t feel like the climax, but more like further buildup to a climax. The real problem with this movie is that everyone knows what’s going to happen. It’s set before the second Conjuring, where Valek appears, so that right there gives away how The Nun will end.

Supposed to be the origins of Valek, it was actually a small chapter in the life of the demon. If they wanted to tell the story of how the demon made its way into the world then they should have made a movie about the Duke who built the Monastery. He sounded more interesting anyway.

The Nun, photo credit: Martin Maguire via WB Media Pass
The Nun, photo credit: Martin Maguire via WB Media Pass /

Now, forgetting the noncoherent plot, the horror itself is pretty good. Images straight out of nightmares intensified with hauntingly menacing religious music. Its chilling atmosphere feels eerily similar to walking through a haunted house on Oct. 31 smelling of blood and sulfur. Honestly, if they turned this movie into a 20-minute short film, it would have been flawless. Showing Sister Irene walking through a foggy graveyard filled with over-sized crosses, staring at the dark figures in the distance without any jump scares or shock music would have been downright sinister, and better than the Hollywood horror glamour shot The Nun became.

Nothing short of a missed opportunity.

The Nun tries so hard to be scary, it forgot to be a movie. Nonetheless, it’s not all bad. Entertaining, a few Easter eggs, and an overall fun spin-off for Conjuring fans.

Taissa Farmiga gets a chance to show off her acting chops in the same franchise her older sister, Vera Farmiga, stars in. Besides the scare tactics, if anything in this movie could have saved it, it would have been Farmiga. A talented performance of a character who doesn’t get empowered nor overly frightful of the evil haunting her. She maintains who she is throughout the movie and uses it to save the day, remaining a kind-hearted young girl in the end.

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Better than most horror movies but poorer than some. Overall I’ll give it 3 stars because of Farmiga’s performance and all the scary nun scenes, though it felt like the director was dangling the demon in our faces like bait on a fish-hook saying, “look at this, it’s what you came for.”

The Nun is now playing in theaters worldwide.