Directed by Corin Hardy (The Hallow) and and screenwritten by Gary Dauberman (It, Annabelle films), The Nun is a prequel spin-off of The Conjuring 2 (2016) and the fifth instalment in The Conjuring Universe. It focuses on the backstory of the titular villain, also known as Valak (Bonnie Aarons), who looks like Marilyn Manson dressed as a nun. Set in the 1950s, an experienced priest named Father Burke (Demián Bichir) and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), a novice with “visions” who has yet to take her vow to become a nun, are sent to Romania by the Vatican to investigate on the death of a nun who seems to have committed suicide at a church that many believe to be cursed.
Hardy’s debut film The Hallow (2015) is a great unconventional horror but can he be as effective for something that’s more mainstream and formulaic that has to tie back to another predecessor film? Well, he does succeed in giving The Nun a very creepy atmosphere with menacing set designs that makes it feel like the environment can eat you alive at any time. The film does have a lot of jump scares with sudden movements and loud sounds. And no real memorable, unique ones but it’s fun and not all of them are as cheap as most generic horror flicks. With cinematographer Martijn Van Broekhuizen whom Hardy collaborated with for The Hallow, there are actually some brilliantly shot moments.
The narratives and the logic of plot are where the film fail miserably. It has quite the typical haunted house story — something strange is going on at a place and a professional (Burke) is sent to investigate and fix the problem. Throw in a white virgin with “visions” (Irene) and a genuinely funny flirty comic relief (Frenchie played by Jonas Bloquet) who’s the local tour guide — but somehow it still manages to be an inconsistent mess.
In the film, Valak is like the It clown that can turn into whatever the person fears and yet, that ability doesn’t really do enough in the plot. And then there are times where the characters are safe when crosses are present, and then at most times, the crosses can’t really do anything. I’m also still confused with Irene’s vision thingy on whether it’s her vision or actual ghosts she’s sees. Or just Valak messing around for unknown reasons instead of just murdering all of them immediately? There are a few more major flaws but I don’t want to spoil it. The most disappointing thing is the film makes Valak seem like an amateur demon who’s very poor at killing and possessing. Almost like the Mr. Bean of demons.
The Nun makes less sense than a horror attraction at the theme park but it still offers enough of brainless, terrifying fun and (very) forcefully ties back to The Conjuring 2. Without the charming and committed performances by the main actors Taissa Farmiga (sister of actress Vera Farmiga who plays Lorraine Warren in the main Conjuring films), Demián Bichir (Alien: Covenant, The Hateful Eight) and Jonas Bloquet (Elle), the flimsiness of the plot and the lack of substance would’ve been even more glaring.
What I would’ve named the film: “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Valak?”
Malaysian censorship: Doesn’t look like it’s censored at all.
Verdict: Just leave your brains aside and you might enjoy it like it’s a decent theme park attraction.
Rating: 2.5 / 5
Malaysia Release Date: 6 September 2018
Local Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures Malaysia
Production: New Line Cinema, Atomic Monster Productions, The Safran Company