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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews The Nun

September 6th, 2018 by Mark McCann Comments

The Nun (15)
Directed by: Corin Hardy
Stars: Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga & Jonas Bloquet
Running time: 136mins

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.

One of the most effective allusions in The Conjuring 2 by Director James Wan, was the set up for The Nun. It was subtly interjected in such a way as to terrify the viewer using a side-device similar to the Annabelle Doll in the previous film.

It set the stage for what was to come in that film’s own trajectory, but also allowed room for the franchise to grow roots in other directions. The cynic has to imagine that this was the plan all along, though regardless, it was planted in such a way as to deepen the narrative mythology, and as a horror entity the Nun herself was probably one of the most memorable of recent years.

As is usual business, Wan handed the reigns to an up and coming director for this side-quel.

Best known for The Hallows and a series of shorts, Corin Hardy has big shoes to fill. He certainly nails the aesthetic of The Conjuring series and its side-tales, but when it comes to pacing and the subsequent execution, there’s a lot to be desired.

As a preface, The Nun is a perfectly enjoyable horror film.

It’s formulaic, which isn’t at all a bad thing in the horror genre, and it’s replete with the sort of jumps that scatter any generic horror film. Where this outing falls down is that, while Wan has a way of playing things straight amidst the ridiculous, Hardy allows a sense of camp to creep in: something akin to old Hammer Horror favourites, where tension is broken by a misplaced sense of the comedic.

Along with erratic pacing and a basic horror plot, The Nun veers into mythic territory that detracts from the pedestrian, believability pitched horror of the previous films. It becomes far-fetched enough that you can detach from it. With Wan and seasoned scripter Gary Dauberman on plot chores it’s hard to fathom that they wanted to soften the edges of their scariest creation by allowing room for laughs. Yet quips not out of place in the action genre and jokes that undermine the sense of dread aren’t uncommon throughout the film.

The trio of Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet are all perfectly serviceable as the leads, but Bloquet is sold short in a role that would seem better placed in a lesser franchise, perhaps without the same degree of gravity attached. He’s an amiable character and his performance is fine. The subject would just be better off without the comedy-sidekick come unlikely hero.

In terms of the Nun herself, as a horror entity she is hugely memorable. Some of the best shots in the movie are the vagaries of her habit floating in dark-lit corridors or spartan rooms. I have no doubt she will be canonised as a fan-favourite, in spite of her solo film’s shortcomings.

In summation, The Nun is a fine slice of horror and would be a perfectly average film if it weren’t attached to a much superior franchise with high expectations engrained from previous films. As a standalone film, it’s creepy, atmospheric and jumpy in a way that will rattle timid teens. For the horror fan looking for something more substantial, particularly following the build-up in The Conjuring 2, The Nun falls somewhere short, trading outright terror for a pastiche of jumps and laughs.

Not bad, but it could have been so much scarier.

3 out of 5 Nerds

I came here in a time machine from the 1980s. The time machine was called childhood. I'm getting back there at all costs! (I also live, love, write, lift & pet cats wherever I may find them.)