The most apparent trend in Hollywood at the moment, aside from comic book movies, is the idea of a filmic universes. Popularized by The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), inter-connected movie universes are just a new approach to producing movie franchises. Such an approach has created a trend which I am ultimately torn about. On the one hand, I’m sick of it, and am a firm believer in the fact that not every major motion picture needs interconnected stories. Whatever happened to the good, old-fashioned sequel? Whatever happened to a movie series not being connected to other movies? On the other hand, I’m admittedly a mark for movie franchises, inter-connected universes included.
Since becoming an unexpected hit in 2013, The Conjuring quickly built its own, albeit, tenuously connected filmic universe. Including The Conjuring, there have been five films in the universe in five years. After the original picture, there was the first spin-off, Annabelle (2014); a movie which I hated. For better-or-worse though, I was convinced to stick around for the adventures of Ed and Lorraine Warren with the release of The Conjuring 2 (2016). A sequel which I find to be equally as good, if not better, than its predecessor. Alas, my good will toward The Conjuring Universe would once again fade when the series literally dipped back into the well with the prequel, Annabelle: Creation (2017). A flick that’s arguably concrete proof that the spin-off movies in this universe are pale imitations of their Conjuring centers. Despite such evidence though, I showed up forthe latest entry in this cinematic universe: The Nun.
Having been introduced to the Demonic Nun (Bonnie Aarons) via a subplot of the The Conjuring 2, the film in review serves as yet another tenuously-connected spin-off and prequel in this universe. The Nun is the origin story for the demon who takes the form of a nun; big surprise there. Set in 1952 Romania (which a fellow audience member audibly confused with Rome), the movie opens at a monastery where a sister commits suicide to avoid demonic possession. In response, The Vatican sends a priest named Father Burke (Demián Bichir), who has experience with exorcisms, to investigate the suicide. Accompanying the father in his investigation is novitiate Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga). Together, the padre and the unavowed nun must determine if the death was related to demonic forces.
The biggest fear I had going into The Nun was not the horror that the movie would present me with, but the fact that the film would feel like a total cash-in. Considering the movie’s origin, how could it not? Well, I’m happy to say that The Nun doesn’t feel like a total money-grab. Instead, the film earnestly attempts to be a horror film that earns the scars and investment of its audience. While the flick failed to do either of those things in my opinion, it did get a couple of things right.
The Nun is a competently-made picture. Director Corin Hardy (The Hallow) delivered a good looking movie, one which he attempts to supply with an atmosphere. Alas, all the supposed atmosphere feels like nothing more than a ripoff of The Exorcist (1973). Or at best, another lousy Exorcist prequel. That’s not the director’s fault, though; it’s the fault of the uninspired screenplay by Gary Dauberman (of the upcoming Swamp Thing TV series), who conceived the story for this movie with James Wan (of the forthcoming Aquaman). Despite the respective talents of these gentlemen, the script for The Nun is a dull slog.
Aside from being a well-made movie, the cast here is quite good. Bichir plays the most interestingly tortured priest since Max von Sydow as Father Merrin. Then there’s the picture’s real protagonist: Sister Irene played by Taissa Farmiga. No stranger to the genre, thanks to her multiple turns throughout American Horror Story, Farmiga delivers an excellent performance in the picture. If there’s anything that you can get invested in with this movie, it’s Farmiga’s character and her performance.
However, the choices made concerning the movie’s story and Farmiga’s casting are all wrong. As you probably know, Taissa Farmiga is the younger sister of Vera Farmiga, who plays Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring films. Why in the world would you not cast Taissa Farmiga as a younger version of Lorraine Warren?! You see, then this movie could serve as a true prequel to The Conjuring. But no, that would be a far too obvious and thematically sensible choice. In any event, the filmmakers and actress sure do, unintentionally or otherwise, make Sister Irene feel like a young Lorraine. So much so that I did not realize that Sister Irene is not so until after the fact. While that might not have improved this movie immensely, I think it would have helped.
The Nun’s most significant issue is that it’s boring as sin. As such, it wasn’t scary in the least, with the exception of a couple of jump scares loud enough to make Beethoven jump out of his grave. Despite its best efforts, The Nun is a very regrettable watch. One that made me wish I was not such a mark for franchises. While the film in review is not the worst spin-off in this cinematic universe (that dubious honor still belongs to Annabelle), it’s a horrible movie. In fact, upon walking out of my screening of this movie, I thought to myself, “I think I would have been less bored attending a church service.” Believe me when I tell you, to get me to have such a thought is no small feat. I know these Conjuring flicks rake in the big bucks, but if there is to be a future for this universe, I suggest a little more quality control.
The Nun is In Theaters Now!