+- Recommended at Your Discretion – R, Horror
With all the new horror we have in the coming months you’d think that genre filmmakers would be battling for the top honor: “Best Horror Movie of 2018.” Unfortunately, The Nun doesn’t find its rhythm or even gather the energy to enter the ring. In fact, The Nun doesn’t succeed in doing much of anything, really; failing to add any layers to the existing universe of The Conjuring, and guaranteeing to leave the fans disappointed. It’s simply mediocre.
Set in the early 1950’s, the Vatican sends a small team to investigate the death of a young nun in the outskirts of a small Romanian town. Father Burke (Demián Bichir) and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) soon discover that they are dealing with more than just a suicide: a demonic presence that will test their faith. Will the help of a local (Jonas Bloguet) be enough for the pair to regain the holy status of the grounds, or will it be lost to evil forever?
An exceptional range of acting talent lingers around the set, and yet, that talent feels wasted. Bichir delivers a relatively stale performance, which can be contributed to the dialogue from writer Gary Dauberman (It, Annabelle). His scenes reveal that his character has a complete lack of emotion and, at times, is forced into cringe-comedy. This would be acceptable, maybe, expect for the fact that there is an already established comic-relief: Frenchie. The strongest arc in the film is the latter character; the one with the least amount of screen time. Taissa Farmiga looks very much like her sister, but that doesn’t ruin any suspension of disbelief; but she isn’t given much to do.
There’s little payoff for fans of The Conjuring universe. Rather than delving into the history of the abbey in Romania, they focus on certain side plots involving our three main characters. Of these three main side plots, the most interesting story is the one given the least amount of time to breathe. Bichir’s character carries heavy baggage from previous events that have occurred in his life and those trickle into a nonsensical inclusion of an entirely different story; one I’m certain will reemerge. And while you may know the eventual outcome of the demon, Valak, the conclusion of the film isn’t nearly satisfying enough to justify a prequel. I fear that they will make a sequel to The Nun, just as they did with Annabelle, to make a few more bucks at the box office and not for inventive narrative.
It’s not all bad, however, as this universe solidifies atmosphere in every outing. Set designs feel authentically unsettling and costumes appear as though they are, indeed, from the early 50’s. Valak’s booming theme will haunt your strongest nightmares. Much to the likes of Winchester from earlier this year, the detailed portraits and structural architecture of the abbey look menacing from afar, and up close. Jump scares are a common occurrence in horror movies, and the same can be said for The Nun, except that there are only a few effective uses of the technique.
The creepiest portions are cut into the trailer and/or teasers for the film, leaving little to be desired upon first watch. The filmmakers decided to leave the richest bits at the concession stand rather than take the buttery-topped, goodness into the crowed theater to share with their fans. The Nun left more questions than answers. It’s a damn shame.