» Blog Archive Review: The Nun Is 90 Minutes Of Sin -
Evan Conway Movies, News, Reviews

A horror cinematic universe is not unheard of, but in this day and age of comic book movies it seems like a fresh initiative among all the superhero attempts we’re seeing every few months. With 2013’s The Conjuring, the world shook in fear as the Warrens took down a demon terrorizing a family, but spawning a sequel and two spin-offs under the Annabelle line, Warner Bros. decided to venture out and greenlight more films to expand upon other demons in the universe. Enter Valak, the Nun from The Conjuring 2, in its own spin-off. An antagonizing figure that struck fear into many, no doubt a movie focusing exclusively on the Nun as an antagonist would be a safe bet at the box office.

Yeah, no. The Nun is not good.

The Nun follows (Here I had to look up the character names) Sister Irene and Father Burke, played respectively by Taissa Farmiga and Demian Bichir, who venture to Romania to investigate the deaths of nuns at a Monastery. As one would expect from typical horror movies, there’s an evil nun there and it’s up to them to figure out what’s going on and how to stop it. The short version: it’s a demon. The long version: it’s an under-cooked movie that has one screenwriter and shows that there was only one draft of the movie written before entering production.

Horror movies have finally been taken seriously in the past few years. What with James Wan, the director of The Conjuring and Insidious movies, actually putting heart and soul into his work, he’s one of but a few directors who are actually trying with the genre. David F. Sandberg impressed last year with Annabelle: Creation and had earned the attention with his debut feature film, Lights Out. Elsewhere outside of this film universe are the likes of Mike Flanagan (Ouija: Origin of Evil, Oculus), David Bruckner (The Ritual), and Andy Muschietti (It). Simply put, there’s some good directors out there making good (Sometimes great) movies, so the standard for horror films are getting higher in recent years. The schlock-filled January horror movie simply won’t stand anymore, and audiences are demanding quality over quantity. (The Wal-Mart bargain bin can only hold so many)

Corin Hardy is not a bad director, nor are the actors in The Nun. Rather, the script he’s working with is void of personality or scares. While one could blame Hardy for not making anything appear scary or conveying atmosphere properly, it all comes back to the content he’s working with and the impossibility of it all coming together to tell an effective story. Though it bills itself as the “darkest entry in The Conjuring series,” one must wonder if it’s because the movie is typically lit by a David Yates-esque Harry Potter blue light and taking a more gothic horror approach to the franchise. Barely earning an R-rating, the film comes across as half-baked and a diet version of its predecessors rather than its own entity the producers want it to be.

That may be a high standard for a second-time director to reach, but the script falls short by committing the actual sin of not being scary. Jump scares are the name of the game, and with how every shot is structured and how many tropes the film relies on, a body falling from a tree or a hand popping out of a door are nothing to be scared of. Even when I guessed wrong about what was going to happen, I still failed to be surprised or scared by the outcome.

It all boils down to how the film amasses no tension, no fear, or any care for what’s happening on screen. The characters are flat and emotionless with no strengths or weaknesses, with Jonas Bloquet playing a man aptly titled Frenchie being so cartoon-like and charismatic, that it’s almost as if he’s winking at you through the screen, saying “Oui, le film est mauvais.” Can you blame actors for trying with what little they have, though? They’re powering through it, just like you’d be sitting through this 90-minute K-Mart brand horror fest.

Perhaps the biggest sin the movie commits is the lack of the titular character. Roughly 45 minutes into the film, Valak finally emerges in a similar way to which they did in The Conjuring 2. Yet what becomes apparent is that all camera angles placed on the Nun are so quick and out of focus that the figure is barely seen or has any presence. Worse yet, I’d bet money that the Nun was hardly on set while filming, as many of the shots used in the film seem like B-roll or recycled footage from The Conjuring 2. This seems plausible, especially given how quickly the shots featuring Valak cut away so quickly. Though one or two appearances of the Nun are handled very well, they’re usually undermined by lame jump scares or an awkward usage of demonic powers. One such sequence essentially turns the Nun into a Sith Lord that tilts the room around like it’s Inception. The whole sequence is awkward, and the end result of the scene makes little sense as well, especially given the Nun’s intentions that become apparent by the beginning of the third act.

Worse yet is the structuring of the movie and how sound and visuals fail to come together to create atmosphere and ambiance. There is little to no dynamic to carry emotion in between set pieces, and as a result this combines with the flat character arcs to sap the story of any potential tension. You don’t feel for the characters, you don’t care for what’s going on, and the entire thing is flatter than the standard at which this film was set at. While visually nice, as I said before, 

the script plays out like they came up with scenarios and set pieces first, then choppily put in a story to make them all tie together. By the time the movie ends, the film hands you a twist that ties it through the remaining Conjuring movies, but does so in a way that makes you ask “Does that really actually mean anything, though?”

Sloppily made and poorly written, I know Hardy is better than this as a director and I know this franchise has done better. Mostly importantly, though, audiences deserve better if this is how they’re going to be spending their Friday night. The Nun is best avoided like you were trying to skip out on confession, and perhaps maybe should be spending your time doing something better. The Ritual is on Netflix, you can get a copy of You’re Next on Blu-Ray for $10 and watch it a few times for less than the price of a movie ticket… Maybe even rewatch The Conjuring 2 to see a better representation of a terrifying character. This franchise can do better, and so can  you.

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