Published on September 6th, 2018 | by Harris Dang
The Nun – Film Review
Reviewed by Harris Dang on the 6th of September 2018
Roadshow Films presents a film by Corin Hardy
Produced by Peter Safran and James Wan
Written by James Wan, Gary Dauberman
Starring Taissa Farmiga, Demián Bichir, Jonas Bloquet, Charlotte Hope, Ingrid Bisu, Bonnie Aarons and Michael Smiley
Cinematography Maxime Alexandre
Edited by Michel Aller, Ken Blackwell
Running Time: 96 minutes
Release Date: the 6th of September 2018
It seems that every year for the past five years, we have endured horror projects produced by horror maestro James Wan. Alongside Leigh Whannell, Wan has become a major player in studio horror films today, having started the serial killer/torture porn franchise Saw, and the paranormal series Insidious.
Now he is continuing forward with The Conjuring franchise. He directed the first two Conjuring films and produced the two spin-offs, Annabelle and its prequel, Annabelle: Creation, both of which involved a demonic doll. With the entire film series grossing more than US$1bn at the box office worldwide, there’s no stopping the milking of the cash cow.
The cash cow now gives us The Nun, a spin-off of The Conjuring 2, which involves the demonic character of Valak, a demon nun that haunted Lorraine Warren (played by Vera Farmiga) to the depths of her very soul. With her talented younger sister, Taissa Farmiga, in the lead role, along with a talented supporting cast featuring Demian Bichir, Jonas Bloquet, Charlotte Hope and Ingrid Bisu, and an up-and-coming director, Corin Hardy (The Hallow, 2015), how could this possibly fail?
Set in 1952 (nineteen years before the events of the first Conjuring film), a young nun at a sheltered abbey in Romania takes her own life under mysterious circumstances. Father Burke (Demián Bichir), who is a priest with a haunted past, and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), a novitiate who hasn’t taken her final vows yet, are sent in by the Vatican to investigate the matter, with the help of a villager nicknamed Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet).
Together, they uncover the order’s unholy secret. Risking not only their lives but their faith and their very souls, they confront a malevolent force in the form of a demonic nun, by the name of Valak (Bonnie Aarons). Spooky events ensue.
Unfortunately, in terms of the other films in the Conjuring universe, The Nun ranks near the cesspool that is Annabelle (from the director of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, no less). Let’s begin with the praises that the Lord, I mean, the film earns.
Composer Abel Korzeniowski and cinematographer Maxime Alexandre help make The Nun look like an appealing package. They both do their best to lend the film an appealingly spooky vibe that hearkens back to critically-acclaimed films with similar subjects, such as The Devils and Black Narcissus.
The cast do what they can with the material they’re given and they all do an okay job. While Charlotte Hope and Ingrid Bisu are given very little to do with their characters, Taissa Farmiga, who has experience in the horror genre thanks to the anthology series American Horror Story, the horror-comedy The Final Girls and other efforts, does a good job of making her character endearing and sympathetic.
Demián Bichir (A Better Life, The Hateful Eight) is clearly too talented to be in a film like this, but thankfully (like his appearance in Machete Kills), he never gives the impression that he’s above the material and does a good job of bringing credibility to the part of the haunted priest.
Jonas Bloquet shows the same kind of laid-back attitude he had while appearing in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle, but he does bring some welcome levity to the film, coming across as both endearing and cocksure.
And now we get to the many sins The Nun commits. For a film that is just over 90 minutes, the film is incredibly tedious due to the uninteresting storytelling. The slabs of colourlessly executed exposition about the backstory of the titular character is cliched and derivative of other, better stories. Like all bad prequels of villains, including Hannibal Rising and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, it ruins the alluring and haunting mystique of the character, making it just a one-dimensional scary image ala the painting and nothing more.
Speaking of one-dimensional, the characters are uninteresting and underdeveloped, which wastes the potential of the actors to do better and fails to give the audience enough reason to care about them. If you don’t care about the characters in a horror film, the scares are much harder to come by, even if the scares are well-executed.
But in the case of The Nun, the attempts at scaring the audience are so blatant and calculated, that the jump scares come across as funny, rather than scary. Sticking your hand in something = jump scare. When the soundscape goes silent = jump scare. When an entity moves a fraction of an inch = jump scare. It just repeats itself ad nauseam, and despite being very loud, it offers nothing entertaining for a plodding 90 minutes.
Then there’s the forced attempts at humour. While Bloquet does earn some chuckles to his credit, most of the time the jokes land with a thud, including many jokes about his nationality as well as his attempts to woo Farmiga’s character to no avail.
On that note, it is with tremendous sorrow to confess that The Nun has broken a sacred vow and committed a sin that films should never, ever commit: the sin of boredom. With boring, cliched attempts of mythology, an underused cast, tedious pacing and hilariously forced attempts at scares and humour, the audience is better off having “nun” of it.
The Nun? More like Nun Like It, Not! TWO CRUCIFIXES OUT OF FIVE.
Summary: With boring, cliched attempts of mythology, an underused cast, tedious pacing and hilariously forced attempts at scares and humour, the audience is better off having "nun" of it.