The Nun (2018)
Director: Corin Hardy
Cast: Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet
Synopsis: A priest with a haunted past and a novice on the threshold of her final vows
are sent by the Vatican to investigate the death of a young nun in Romania and confront
a malevolent force in the form of a demonic nun.
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
MPAA Rating: R (for terror, violence, and disturbing/bloody images)
Release Date: September 7, 2018
When James Wan's The Conjuring arrived in theaters in 2013, it was a film that immediately terrified audiences, sinking them into their seats and sending unnerving chills down their spines. With the film, Wan re-introduced old-school horror filmmaking tactics that had long been absent, including the building of atmosphere, tension, and suspense and the fear of the visually unknown. Equally important, he provided an emotional core for the film in the form of a family being helplessly terrorized by a demonic presence, further allowing audiences to invest themselves in the story and the characters.
Due to the enormous success of the film, a sequel and two spinoffs were produced, with the sequel The Conjuring 2 (also directed by James Wan) enjoying the most critical praise. The two spinoffs meanwhile, Annabelle (2014) and Annabelle: Creation (2017) garnered healthy box office numbers but the absence of Wan in the director's chair was greatly felt as the films failed to deliver the high level of suspense generated in his films. The third spinoff, The Nun, serves as an origin story for the demonic entity found in The Conjuring 2 and follows a priest (Demián Bichir) and a young woman (Taissa Farmiga) who are sent to an abbey to investigate the apparent suicide of a nun.
A key ingredient in making a superior horror film is to create and sustain an eerie, uncomfortable atmosphere and world for the audience--one that keeps them on the edge of their seat. Wan accomplished this in both of his films and The Nun follows suit here in successfully delivering a dark, foggy, world that's amplified by an isolated setting. Very few daylight scenes are in the film, which serves to box viewers in and rarely let them out of the dark. While (as we saw in The Conjuring) scenes can still be terrifying in the daylight, the night provides a naturally ominous element that further puts viewers on edge, even if nothing frightening is happening on screen at the moment. The cinematography in the film is without question the strongest element, as shadows and lighting are toyed with repeatedly on the real nuns to deliver second glances from viewers wondering if its the humans or something else.
While The Nun succeeds in delivering a sinister atmosphere for the audience, it sadly doesn't succeed in much of anything else. The film is frustratingly content with using jump scare after jump scare on its audience, with very few actually being effective (to make matters worse, the most effective one is in the trailer). While the film smartly does hold off on fully showing the demonic nun for the majority of the film, it repeatedly shows it for lengthy sessions toward the end, where fights ensue that are painfully exaggerated beyond any kind of realism. The tension-filled scenes from James Wan's work are almost completely absent and instead replaced with loud, but rarely scary action scenes.
The other major component lacking in The Nun are the characters. As mentioned earlier, The Conjuring films weren't just successful due to their technical qualities, but also for their engaging characters that viewers could empathize with throughout the film. The Nun possesses weak, flat characters that don't hold much weight or value in the story, so we as an audience really don't care what happens to them in the film, which is one of the last things you want to happen from a screenwriter's standpoint.
While The Nun delivers a genuinely eerie atmosphere and a few good scares, it can't overcome its over reliance on jump scares, exaggerated action sequences, weak story and even weaker characters, making it a sub-par film in the supernatural horror genre.
Written by Anthony Watkins, October 9, 2018