Director: Corin Hardy
Cast: Taissa Farmiga, Demian Bichir, Jonas Bloquet
Plot: In 1952, Romania, a nun commits suicide in an isolated abbey, triggering a Vatican investigator (Bichir) and a nun-in-training (Farmiga), to inspect the grounds.
The Nun missed a trick. Somewhere along the way, someone came up with the idea of casting Conjuring star, Vera Farmiga’s, sister, Taissa Farmiga of American Horror Story fame, in the role of the lead nun in this Conjuring spin-off. It’s a sweet idea, knitting together this horror extended universe in a subtle behind-the-scenes way, a tiny nod to the fans with that touch of subtlety that other extended universes, namely DC, are sorely lacking. However, the connection is almost too good, to the point where it opened too many doors. For those unaware of this trivia piece, the casting is almost too telling. We are given this lead nun figure with the paranormal sixth sense powers of Lorraine Warren, who looks just like Lorraine Warren. There is even an early scene, where Taissa Farmiga shows off some charisma that feels like an echo of Lorraine. Essentially, you are convinced that the Nun is a horror masquerading as an origin story for Lorraine Warren. Sadly, this twist-that-could-have-been never unveils itself (although as soon as the producers look at the final edit, it is almost definitely a connection that will made in a future Conjuring movie), so all of these imaginary examples of foreshadowing are utterly wasted. Of course, it feels harsh to blame the Nun for something it didn’t do, but it is a nagging feeling that can be easily shaken.
So, let’s judge it just on the basis of a horror. The bad news is that, much like the Annabelle movies, the Nun is definitely a pale imitation of the Conjuring movies. The Conjuring 2 remains one of the most impressive horror movies in recent years, so while the Nun was unlikely to match it, it feels sadly frustrating that it never attempts to be in the same league. That being said, it is a much smoother film than both Annabelle films. It borrows from the Conjuring’s investigative style narrative, albeit a much weaker strand, which fuels the Nun for the early stages. Set in a Romanian abbey that the locals fear, Corin Hardy’s set-pieces do much of the heavy lifting for him. Sometimes it is just the backdrop that provides that dripping sense of dread. It means that Hardy has time on his hands to focus on the smaller details, like a stunning piece of light that breaks through the lush green of the forest. When the Nun wants to be, it is a very pretty film, something that most horror directors wouldn’t even think of doing. It says something about your set-dressing that when the film enters its terrifying climax, you still find the mentality through the terror to admire the impressive scenery while jumping out of your skin. That being said, the Nun isn’t quite the scariest film you will see all year. The Nun does a lot of the heavy-lifting just by existing. Hardy drops the Nun, out of focus in the background, for several shots just for the hell of it, creating a fun game of Spot the Nun to tide you through the expositional breaks in the scares. But otherwise, it’s a lot of posturing with the usual trademarks of the scariest moments being in the characters’ heads and the odd zombie whenever the writers run out of ideas. The use of them is understandable, because, on her own, the Nun is more eerie than terrifying. At one point, the director simply uses her to add to the impressive cinematographer, literally recreating Apocalypse Now with the Nun emerging from the water, Marlon Brando style. Again, the Nun handles these better than Annabelle’s films, which simply looked like the team were just running out of ideas, but the film remains a distraction to tide you over until Conjuring 3 comes out.
Final Verdict: The Nun isn’t the scariest, and misses out on a killer twist, but it is an entertaining addition to a successful new horror movie universe.