EXPECTATIONS: And then there were nun.
REVIEW: It seems that every year for the past five years, we have horror projects produced by horror maestro James Wan. One of the major players (alongside Leigh Whannell) who started off the serial killer/torture porn film franchise, Saw; as well as the paranormal haunting film franchise, Insidious; Wan has become a major player in studio horror films today.
Now, he is continuing forward with The Conjuring franchise, which involves the first two Conjuring films (that he directed) as well as producing the two spin-offs involving the demonic doll of Annabelle and its prequel, Annabelle: Creation. With the entire film series grossing more than $1 billion at the box office worldwide, there’s no stopping the milking of the cash cow.
Now, the cash cow 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 as the lead, along with a talented supporting cast of Demian Bichir, Jonas Bloquet, Charlotte Hope and Ingrid Bisu and an up-and-rising director Corin Hardy, how could this possibly fail?
Set in 1952 (19 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. A priest with a haunted past (Demian Bichir) and a novitiate who hasn’t taken her final vows (Taissa Farmiga) are sent in by the Vatican to investigate the matter, with the help of a villager with the nickname, 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.
Now where does The Nun rank in terms of the other films in the Conjuring universe? Unfortunately, it 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, as they both do their best to lend the film an appealingly spooky vibe that hearkens back to critically-acclaimed films with similar subjects like 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 in making her character endearing and sympathetic.
Demian 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 bring 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, with slabs of colourlessly executed exposition about the backstory of the titular character that not only is cliched and derivative of other, better stories, but like all bad prequels of villains like Hannibal Rising and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Beginning, it ruins the alluring and haunting mystique of the character, making it just a one-dimensional scary image ala the painting it really is, nothing more.
Speaking of one-dimensional, the characters are uninteresting and underdeveloped, which wastes the potential of the actors to do better as well as not giving the audience enough for them to care. And if you don’t care about the characters in a horror film, the scares are much harder to come by; even if the scares 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 goes on and on and on like that ad nauseum; being a film that does nothing entertaining very loudly 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.
And on that note, it is with tremendous sorrow to confess that The Nun has broken a sacred vow by committing 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!
This review can be also seen at IMPULSE GAMER. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.
Cast: Taissa Farmiga, Demian Bichir, Jonas Bloquet, Charlotte Hope, Ingrid Bisu, Bonnie Aarons
Director: Corin Hardy
Screenwriters: James Wan, Gary Dauberman