The Nun (2018)

Director: Corin Hardy

Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Demián Bichir, Jonas Bloquet, Bonnie Aarons

The Conjuring Cinematic Universe franchise has been very busy in recent years, with 4th film Annabelle: Creation released just last year. Here we have the latest addition to the universe in the form of The Nun – directed by Corin Hardy (The Hallow) which serves as prequel to all the other films within the franchise so far, exploring the frightening being from The Conjuring 2 in more detail, and also adding to the wealth of Nun-based horror that is out right now.

After a young nun at a cloistered abbey is found hanged by a townsperson the Vatican decide to investigate the goings on there. Sending the troubled Father Burke (Demián Bichir, Machete Kills) known for dealing with strange incidents within the church, and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga, American Horror Story) a novitiate with deep-seated troubles of her own, they enter the abbey and discover it’s terrible secret before risking their lives to put a stop to the unholy force within.

The Nun has a simple premise which allows the film to focus more on the journey character-wise of the two leads. though this is a story about the scary nun you saw in The Conjuring 2 it feels more importantly like the story of the father and the novice fighting their own personal demons, becoming stronger and more assured for it. This may disappoint some who expected the focus to be heavily on “The Nun” based on the title and the jump-scare trailer that was pulled from Youtube (Nice way to build interest in your film close to release by the way), but for those who enjoy character-driven story with growth this is a great thing.

The film is much like The Exorcist in some ways because of that, with the focus being away from the possessed being and more on the ones trying to fight it – but why shouldn’t it be that way, when you think about it those are the heroes of your horror story. The story of the Father’s past in particular brings a good case for the theme of redemption being important within the film, similar to John Constantine in Hellblazer he has mistakes in his past that haunt him deeply, much as the nun haunts the abbey. The theme of redemption runs through the other characters too, Sister Irene is also looking for redemption – not just for herself but also for the hanged nun that was the reason they went there. I could go more deeply into this but to do so would give away far too many plot points that are interesting to uncover as you watch the film yourself.

There felt like there was something a little off with the pacing of the film, much of the film felt like it took forever and then there was a crescendo of action and intriguing moments within the last 30 minutes that at times felt a little like The Goonies (you’ll get what I mean when you see the key). The first 30 minutes were well-used also, building the story and atmosphere as you got a feel for the setting and the characters. I’m not sure if that pacing was purposeful to build suspense or not but it did leave me feeling disinterested at the midway point of the film wondering when it was going to get anywhere. Thankfully if you stick with it you are rewarded with some good times.

Visually The Nun is very watchable, it’s atmospheric in a vast and lonely way with the impressively large yet run-down abbey, and the gorgeous overhead shots that highlight how tiny these characters are in the grand scheme of it all as well as how alone they are if everything goes wrong is a nice touch that makes the film feel creepy without trying to make it claustrophobic which would have been an easy way to build tension. There’s something unsettling about how big and near empty the abbey is, if you’ve ever been in a large museum or library close to closing time you’ll know what I mean.

If you aren’t caught up with all of the other films you’ll still be able to watch this one without confusion (though the others are tidied into them at the beginning and end) which is handy if you were concerned you needed to watch 4 films before this one. For me The Nun feels different to the others in the universe, it’s focus on Father Burke and Sister Irene turned out to be far more engaging than waiting to be scared. For those wondering, there are plenty of jump-scares to be had watching this film based on the audience around me – I say this because it’s rare a jump-scare gets me, and The Nun was no different in that respect.

So it’s the second nun horror review of the week, and it turns out the two films couldn’t be more different. The Nun wasn’t what I expected based on the trailer and the previous instalments in the franchise but it turned out to be a chilling story of guilt and redemption with some evil nun scares thrown in. It was more thoughtful and less popcorn-fodder than anticipated and aside from the pacing issues and lack of the titular nun for far too much of the film it was a good watch.

Overall Rating: 3/5

A story of redemption and being haunted by the past that defied the trailers and it’s own title.

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