The Nun Review

The Nun – Exclusive
Romania, 1952. Father Burke (Demián Bichir) and novice Irene (Taissa Farmiga) are sent by the Vatican to investigate the suicide of a nun at a remote convent. Burke, an exorcist, and Irene, who has visions, suspect the institution is haunted by a demon which plans to extend its evil influence.

by Kim Newman |
Published on
Release Date:

07 Sep 2018

Original Title:

The Nun (2018)

This is the fifth entry in a franchise rooted in the Conjuring films — which introduced the runny goth make-up-and-piranha-dentition nun as well as two-time horror star Annabelle. With each iteration, the claim of factual basis for the horror gets thinner — and The Nun is the most obviously made-up story yet.

The Nun – Exclusive

Ironically, considering the position of the Catholic church, this is a nun which could do with a divorce — at least from her parent franchise. It’s top-and-tailed by mood-breaking clips from the Conjuring movies which flicker by so quickly that even if you recall the earlier films in detail, they’re incomprehensible and irritating. Screenwriter Gary Dauberman, working from a story devised with series creator James Wan, may be working up towards an Infinity War crossover where the scary doll, the scary nun, the scary jack-in-the-box, the scary toaster and whatever else is stashed in Ed and Lorraine Warren’s Museum Of Haunted Curiosities get together to give Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson a really hard time — but, for now, the petered-out storylines and newly laid plot pipe get in the way of the effectiveness of this particular film.

The real nun in the movie is Taissa Farmiga’s heroine, and the dramatic weight falls on her able shoulders.

New to the franchise is director Corin Hardy, who continues the British retro-horror feel of his Irish debut feature The Hallow in a mix of tried-and-tested jump scares and slow-build creep-outs. It seems to be a rule of the Conjuring universe that each film should have a homage to a classic Italian horror film — Annabelle reprised one of the best scares in Mario Bava’s filmography, and this revisits a memorable buried-alive shock from Lucio Fulci’s City Of The Living Dead. Hardy steeps the whole Romanian excursion in gothic ground mists, with forests of inverted crosses, muttering peasants down at the Hammer Films inn, bells attached to graves so that the prematurely buried can summon help (when they all tinkle at once, panic ensues), an impressively castle-like convent which has a few things in common with Michael Mann’s The Keep (it’s more prison than church), and a plethora of veiled, wimpled, looming figures. There are so many scary nuns around, starting with a mother superior who whispers from behind a black muslin shroud, that it’s a moot point as to which will turn out to be the title spectre.

Many recent Catholic-themed horror films (The Devil’s Doorway, St. Agatha), shadowed by church scandals, depict clergy as routinely evil. Here, a sacrilegious villain dresses up as a scary nun to mock the church, but the real nun in the movie is the heroine, played by a spirited Taissa Farmiga, and the dramatic weight falls on her able shoulders. At once both horror movie ‘final girl’ and ninja exorcist, Sister Irene is spirited novice, but eventually wields an unfeasibly holy relic in a nun-on-nun face-off. A paradox of franchise horror is that, after a while, it becomes comfortingly, even reassuringly familiar; this is sweetly scary, but not remotely disturbing.

It may be a familiar old dark castle runaround, but Corin Hardy delivers eerie images and nerve-scraping sound effects. Lapsed Catholics, in particular, will have nun nightmares after this.
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