I’m a sucker for good scary movies, and while The Nun delivers in it’s creepy soundtrack and stellar cinematography, it falls flat of being anything other than your typical horror movie. Director Corin Hardy’s new edition to the Conjuring series delivers some freaky visuals, but if you’re looking for another The Conjuring, with its stellar character development and riveting plot, you’ll be disappointed.
The Nun tells the gruesome tale of the demon-like nun who has haunted audiences since The Conjuring 2, beginning in 1952 Romania when a young nun commits suicide in a crumbling down abbey. The Vatican sends renowned Father Burke (Demián Bichir) to investigate the nun’s strange passing, and after enlisting the help of novice nun Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) and French Canadian farmer Frenchie (played by an inconsistently accented Jonas Bloquet), he comes face to face with a malevolent demon hell-bent on destroying their souls and their faith.
The Nun functions on a basic horror plot to deliver a solid storyline to engage classic horror movie fans. It leaves audiences reeling with its innovative and shocking ending, whose revelation sticks with them more than any actual fear. It had classic horror movie scares, from something appearing behind you in a mirror to the demon jump-scaring you out of the alleyway. These elements combined fear and sound to create frightening moments–the first time they were used. However, six jump scares and slow motion looking-behind-yous later, these moments lost their horror appeal and just became eye rolling shenanigans.
With a plot such as this, there is no doubt that The Nun joins the ranks of elite horror movies, yet it doesn’t seem to realize that fact as it continuously jumps from areas of failed comic relief and…romance? While the comic relief, most often administered by Frenchie’s awkward French accent, didn’t actually make anyone laugh, it never seemed too cheesy and didn’t take away from the storyline. And while Frenchie was an entertaining character, the audience never learns much about his, or Father Burke’s or Sister Irene’s, backstories. This may have been a creative choice from the director to foster a sense of isolation within the characters and the audience, yet without this attachment to the characters, their perils did not faze me much. This dramatically lessened the overall fear factor the movie could have had.
Yet, a movie is more than just actors and plot. Yes, The Nun delivers rather shabby acting and overused cliches, however the cinematography (thanks to Maxime Alexandre) and use of sound cannot be beat. The movie was filmed on location in Romania and the producers used the country’s green rolling hills and vast landscapes to their advantage. For example, when Frenchie was leading the two travelers towards the abbey, the camera chose to pan out to the vast light and dark greens of the rolling fields and mountains, with the carriage a mere small speck on the lower left hand corner of the screen. By using this technique, the director emphasizes how small and helpless our heroes really are, a perspective that came in handy to build suspense. Yet, the main contributor to the nail-biting suspense throughout The Nun would have to be Abel Korzeniowski’s haunting score and use of sound in all the right places. Yes, a demon nun slowly preceding down a hallway is a scary sight, but when matched with the slow roar of an orchestra, you want to hide your face in your hands and prepare for the worst.
Where The Nun lacks in its acting, multiple cliches and confusion over genre, it makes up for in it’s gorgeous cinematography, expert use of sound and music and a plot that leaves the audience reeling. Now it’s time to see just what James Wan, the mastermind behind the Conjuring series, dreams up next.
If I were Entertainment Weekly and in the business of grading movies, I would give The Nun a B-