Director: Corin Hardy
Screenplay: Gary Dauberman
Starring: Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet, Bonnie Aarons
Runtime: 96 Minutes
There’s a sad realisation as The Nun plays out that as solid a foundation that this ongoing Conjuring cinematic universe is built on, the increasing depths to which it is sinking to simultaneously overexplain yet underdevelop different passing phantoms and enemies from the main two films into their own features is an exercise of diminishing returns.
Not so much financially, as no matter how little money they spend on these they’re still going to make a serious amount of money at the box-office, but creatively the loops into which it is writing itself while still sticking to the semi-realistic moulds of the two title films is only working to detriment them as solo exercises.
The Nun takes its furthest leap back yet to an abbey in 1952 Romania, where Father Burke (Demián Bichir) and Taissa Farmiga as Catholic novitiate Sister Irene uncover the unholy secrets buried and come into contact with Valak, the evil antagonist of The Conjuring 2 who takes the form of an evil nun for recognisable branding reasons more than anything to do with the actual plot.
The plot itself is so barren of further reading that it mostly just falls to the background, as the incredibly tired procedure of step-by-step jump scares plays out to the least effective execution of the entire franchise.
Director Corin Hardy, who delivered the imaginatively nasty The Hallow a few years back, shows none of the promise here beyond some minor visual elements in dream sequences. The film is smothered by a murky pallet and generic visuals, relying almost entirely on the images of distorted Catholic signifiers that just don’t work as intended.
There are numerous moments in which the air of portent polluting the whole thing gives way to moments of explosive unintended laughter, be it the absurd nature of the hauntings that are both inconsistent and nonsensical (which is to say nothing of the logical leaps), thunder sound effects that punctuate scares for no reason, horrendous editing that spends way too much time showing of the exterior of the abbey, or the sight of farm hand "Frenchie" (Jonas Bloquet) as he grabs a novelty-sized wooden cross from a graveyard and runs from the frame.
That is until it starts trying to joke at the expense of its own quality in the third act by throwing in jokes that bungle the tone entirely, as "Frenchie" decides that the best way to combat the evil ghost nun is to shoot it with a shotgun. Also, the inclusion of a baffling flashback sequence that plays like National Treasure and introduces a McGuffin that genuinely looks like the Holy Hand Grenade.
The Nun is naff, empty rubbish. Neither violent nor scary in any regard, it relies on the ticks of a wearisome series to sustain itself, even with the glowing performance of the leading Taissa Farmiga that comes at the expense of another continuity breaking narrative connection – but since it´ll probably be haphazardly explained away in another follow-up, who even cares.