Get ready ladies and gentlemen because the malicious monster, the disturbing demon, Valak aka that creepy ass nun from The Conjuring 2 is back in The Nun. Starring Taissa Fermiga sister of Conjuring regular Vera Farmiga The Nun sees a priest (Demián Bichir ), a young nun in training (Fermiga), and a French Canadian (Jonas Bloquet) take on Valak (Bonnie Aarons) the ancient demon in Romania.
Directed by Corin Hardy with a story by James Wan and Gary Dauberman The Nun is the beginning of the legend of Valak the demonic force that would plague the Warrens when they came into contact with it.
The film opens like any good horror story worth its salt, with screams, blood, and a suicidal nun. The audience is then taken to the Vatican where the most charming, and cool, priest in cinematic history Father Burke (Bichir) is tasked by the clergy to find out what happened at this particular cloister in Romania. He is asked to bring young nun in training Irene to learn about the region.
When they arrive they meet Frenchy (Bloquet) who explains to them the situation of the area. He explains how the village sees the church and all who dwell there as cursed and how he came across the dead nun. From there the unlikely party embarks on a journey of true, uncompromising horror that will leave them all changed forever.
Sadly that last sentence was only half true, all the characters are irrevocably changed but The Nun sadly is nowhere near as horrific as the rest of its brethren in the Conjuring cinematic universe (save for Annabelle which we can all agree was terrible). This is the most “Hollywood” of these connecting films. A large percentage of the horror is jump scares which is unfortunate because the Conjuring franchise had made a name for itself for not falling into that trap. Instead establishing horror through genuinely intelligent cinematography which drew the audience in and then pulled the rug from underneath them bringing with it pure terror.
This is not to say that there isn’t horror in The Nun because there is. The sheer presence of Valak brings chills. The moment it appears on screen you are immediately in a state of uneasiness. This is further bolstered by how well the film utilises Valak as an antagonistic force. There are other monstrous forces at work and they vary in their effectiveness as scares but when Valak shows up your heart will skip a beat and that is a testament to the impressiveness of this figure.
The cast of characters that Valak terrifies are okay. Sister Irene is a decent protagonist, she is your usual stock figure in a horror film. She has to face this overpowering force which will test her faith and because she’s so young and naive you root for her because she’s just so gosh darn charming. With Father Burke there was a lot of facepalm moments as he seemed to fall for literally every trick in the book when Valak is torturing him with various visions and nightmares. Then there is Frenchy who is that 80’s male figure who flirts with the young female protagonist and tries his best to quip to help cope with the horror he is witnessing. At the best of times it’s stupid and at the worst of times, it takes you out of the film.
Corin Hardy as a director is nowhere near as nuanced as James Wan and you feel it in how he sets up scenes as well as the score which is just too overpowering to be effective. There is a sense of amateurishness with the execution of certain scenes and honestly, it makes me wish Wan had taken a crack at this story over Hardy as I feel he understands this creature and this world far better than Hardy. Though he tries his best there are moments that feel lifted out of films like The Exorcist and even Evil Dead with nowhere near the effectiveness.
The Nun is at the end of the day on the weaker side of the Conjuring franchise. It’s more Annabelle than Conjuring 2 which is a shame because I was looking forward to seeing the origins of this demonic Nun. Nevertheless, it is still an entertaining time at the cinema especially for fans of horror just don’t go in expecting greatness.