The release of “The Nun” on Thursday, Sept. 6 had horror fans praying it would live up to the hype that has been set up by the other movies in the cinematic universe set by “The Conjuring.”
“The Conjuring” and other movies within the same film universe loosely follow the lives of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren as they have paranormal encounters. The character of the nun is not completely new. It rears it ugly face through brief yet memorable cameos in the conjuring films, and this concept of learning the story of a minor, yet popular character from the original conjuring films was intriguing to many fans of the franchise.
Although it is the fifth movie released, in chronological time it is actually first and serves as almost an origin story for the franchise. It is then followed by the two other spinoff movies “Annabelle: Creation” and “Annabelle” and then the original “The Conjuring” and “The Conjuring 2.” Fans have now seen a movie universe that spans almost 30 years within these five films. So immediately “The Nun” has a lot of expectations to live up to as a prequel to these four popular and successful horror films. For me, and many other critics, the film just fell short of reaching the bar of success set by the other films.
The movie opens in a decrepit abbey in a remote area of Romania in 1952. After the sinful suicide of a young nun from the abbey in the opening scene, the vatican sends Father Burke (Demian Bichir) who specializes in the supernatural, and a young novitiate, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) to investigate the incident. These two more uptight, quiet characters are accompanied by a town local known as “Frenchie” (Jonas Bloquet) who provides much needed comic relief throughout the serious movie. As they enter the property it becomes abundantly clear that something is amiss with the abbey.
The movie is a bit slow to start. Sitting in the theater you begin to wonder when it is going to start getting scary. The nun character is scary enough in its own right. With sharp features placed on pale white skin and long bloody fangs, one look at it starts to unnerve you. Yet the movie can’t simply rely on the terrifying character to carry the whole plot.
With virtually no technology in 1950s era Romania, the film almost seems as if it is set much earlier in time. The film employs many unsettling nods to history, such as the graveyard complete with bells attached to the headstones to ring if a person had been buried alive during the plague. As well as the continued use of oil lanterns and candles to light the way through the dark corridors of the unholy abbey.
The appearances of the actual nun are limited to quick glimpses of her until the very end of the movie. The last 30 minutes of the film contain about 75 percent of the action that occurs in the movie. This combined with the lack of plot or character development throughout the rest of the movie leaves the audience a bit bored. The cinematography of the movie is breathtaking, the wide shots of the Romanian countryside and exploration of the medieval looking abbey set the creepy feeling of isolation in the scenes leading into the action, The film mostly relies on the creepy atmosphere of the location to keep audiences on their toes throughout scenes with very little action.
This movie is chock full of sudden jump scares, so much so that they start to become expected. The scare tactics are quite basic and generic, nothing super new or noteworthy to add to the lackluster plot of the movie.
The films connection to “The Conjuring” storyline helped bolster this movie to having one of the best opening weekends for a horror film. Despite critics opinions, the film proved a hit with audiences over its opening weekend, as it earned $53.5 million in the US, making it the ninth biggest film debut this year. Although many people are showing up to theater to see this movie, the reactions afterwards have been very mixed, verging on the negative side.
“The Nun” had a lot of pressure to live up to “The Conjuring” movies, especially after the original “Annabelle” movie was such a flop. Although many critics agree that the movie was only so-so in the area of actual horror, it was met with great success at the box office. This film is a decent watch for a modern horror fan, but due to the expectations that were set by the other movies within the “Conjureverse” this film just seems mediocre in comparison.