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Film review: The Nun

The Nun, directed by Corin Hardy, is part of a shared universe that seems to have quietly sneaked into theaters from The Conjuring series starring Patrick Wilson. It’s been quite a successful franchise so far, and it seems that there’s still a little mileage left in this universe, as there’s been quite a bit of hype about this particular release. This is the first film in the series chronologically speaking, and it takes place in the 1950’s, but it isn’t shy about making sure we know that it’s part of a bigger picture.

The funny thing about The Nun, is the setting and style. The film was shot in Romania, where the bulk of the action takes place, and if it wasn’t for the exposition we get in the first 10 minutes, it would have been hard to date it at all. With it’s Gothic abandoned haunted nunnery, fog enshrouded forests and graveyards and peasant filled local ram shack town, it looks more like a classic Hammer horror than a modern jump scare scare fest. It has all the Hammer tropes on show to the point where I began to wonder if the production were fans, and this was a planned homage. I love those old productions, so for me at least, the setting worked.

Storywise you pretty much get what you would expect. After a suicide at the nunnery, expert Vatican priest and sidekick novitate, are sent Mulder and Scully style to investigate. Father Burke, played by Demian Bichir and Sister Irene, Taissa Farmiga, find themselves investigating the haunted setting where demon nun Valak is causing a bit of a stir, trying to find a host, or something, so it can escape, or something. There’s a flashback to a devil worshiping baddie that opens a portal to release Valak, but he’s stopped in the nick of time, and the portal closed with a macguffin that you know is going to be used in the last reel to sort things out. The story here is a little thin to tell the truth, but I don’t really see that being much of a problem for fans of this franchise. It’s a pretty scary and fun watch, and it has everything that you would want from this type of fare, so it’s hard to complain about it.

There’s plenty of weird dream sequences and the usual “Boo!” you’re scared moments, but the setting lends itself well, and perhaps my clouded retro perspective on those old Hammer classics meant that I enjoyed this outing a lot more than I thought i would. Yes it makes little sense, and I am still trying to figure out what the end game of the demon nun was, and perhaps in a future film, this will be explained, but for this screenplay it was a series of scary set pieces that was tied together quite loosely and more attention was spent on getting the scares right, than the actual general motivations of all involved.

It’s maybe worth noting that the demons involved here relied on what mostly seemed to be practical effects rather than CG. There’s a number of shots that looked quite old school, and the nun herself is played by Bonnie Aarons in creepy make up. Again that’s a plus for me. I’m so fed up of stupid CGI horror monsters such as Slenderman. It’s so distracting to notice blatant CG effects in horror films these days. It completely takes me out of the moment and destroys any scene involved. So if you have enjoyed the previous entries in this universe, you will probably sit through this quite happily. It moves quite briskly and tries to tell a story so you have to give it credit for that. Everything is serviceable, and although it doesn’t really break any new ground, it’s worth a view.
Maybe if you look at it like I did, through a Hammer tinted lens, you might enjoy it more.


Rating: 6 out of 10