And I thought the DC Extended Universe had problems…
“The Nun” is the fifth installment of the “Conjuring Universe” and a prequel to 2016’s “The Conjuring 2.” It follows a Catholic priest (Demián Bichir) and a young novitiate (Taissa Farmiga) who uncover an unholy secret in a Romanian monastery in 1952. Corin Hardy directs while “Conjuring” creator James Wan produces.
I have never really been a fan of the “Conjuring” series. I think the first film is very competently made and has some tense sequences but just isn’t that scary, which is a bit of a crutch for a scary movie. All the subsequent films, especially the two “Annabelle” installments, are laughable (for the wrong reasons) and just plain boring. This film has better performances and more engaging set pieces than those films (a gothic castle screams “ghost story” more than a farm) but a dumb characters and a boring narrative make this just another bland film with a few bumps in the night.
Like I said, the film is set in the Cârța Monastery in Romania, offers a few creepy settings and an unsettling atmosphere. However as director, Hardy does little to explore any real possibilities or play with the world he sets up short of the expected. He doesn’t trust his audience, so any shadow is highlighted and every figure held in the frame. One of the things good horror films, including many by James Wan, do is have creepy images in the background but don’t emphasize them; this makes your brain paranoid if it caught something or not and then you start looking around nervously in every wide shot.
Performance-wise, both Demián Bichir and Taissa Farmiga (younger sister of “Conjuring” star Vera Farmiga, although I don’t believe their characters share relation) turn in solid work. You can sense their dedication to the faith and they (usually) are able to sell a lot of the laughable dialogue. However, their characters are so unbelievably stupid, walking towards creepy shadows in the middle of the night and not being creeped out or confused by figures suddenly disappearing, it makes you distracted more by that then admiring their work.
The first half of this film is a pretty boring investigation, even though we have seen that priests looking into possible possessions can be very interesting when done right. The second half is a nonsensical CGI monster movie, with the titular Nun running around screaming and jumping, plus a few other incoherent and stupid special effects.
Look, these films are clearly not my cup of tea. I like my films to have relatable characters, engaging plots and smooth pacing, but some people get enough out of jump scares and demons in creepy Halloween masks, and if those two things are enough for you then “The Nun” should be fun enough (the person I saw this with said parts were almost too creepy, so maybe I’m just too brave). But being this far out from the end of October, I don’t think this is entertaining enough for even a “fun night out” at the movies.
Critic’s Grade: C–