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James Wan’s The Conjuring Universe has been one of the most surprise franchises in recent history. The filmmaker directed the 2013 film based on an incident in the lives of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The horror feature proved to be a huge hit raking in $319 million worldwide and kicking off several sequels and spin-off. The Conjuring, Conjuring 2, Annabelle, and Annabelle: Creation have in all managed to collect more than a billion dollars in the worldwide box office on a meager total budget of 81.5 million dollars.
These types of numbers are rare for any franchise and unprecedented for a horror one. So, with more sequels and spin-off in the works, the franchise decided to add a new entry to its franchise this year: The Nun. Directed by Corin Hardy (of ‘The Hallow’ fame), the film sees a Roman Catholic priest and a nun in her novitiate travel to Romania to investigate the supernatural proceedings that are occurring in a remote church. There isn’t much of a story after that. The film has neither the charm nor the scares of the other films in the universe.
The Conjuring Universe movies can’t be dubbed bold or particularly original, but there’s a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ about them that’s missing from The Nun. The thing that made Conjuring and its sequel work so wonderfully was that we got to know and like the characters of Ed and Lorraine (And even the people they met and worked for) before the film put their lives in peril. The Nun makes the grave mistake of putting us right in the middle of the action fairly quickly and in not setting up the characters well; the film makes us care less about them.
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While the cinematography of the film sticks out in the rare instances the movie shows us the lush landscapes of Romania, the film mostly chooses to be confined to the church and this brings a dreariness to the movie which doesn’t help the film as much as remind the viewer that there isn’t even anything visually striking about the horror flick. While the castle-like church is picturesque, the splashes of blood and chirping birds only go so far in creating an atmosphere for the film. For those looking to go see the film just for the jump scares — don’t.
There’s nothing wrong with a horror movie relying on jump scares but The Nun does so to such a degree that it leaves the watcher unfazed. Even with the blaring sound design, the film isn’t effective in ramping up the horror. In fact there isn’t a single scene that managed to scare or even stick out. The Nun has a weak script and its entire plot is forgettable at best. The film barely has a plot and simply said, the origin story for the demon isn’t intriguing enough for there to have been made an entire film on it.
Valak the demonic spirit that keeps our heroes on the edge of their feet doesn’t even look terrifying so there isn’t much that makes The Nun a worthy watch. Demian Bichir who plays Father Burke gives a fine performance but the film’s feeble attempt at giving his character a back story doesn’t make us any more invested in his character. The same is the case for Taissa Farmiga’s Sister Irene. Taissa Farmiga who is the sister of Vera Farmiga (Lorraine Warren) has made a name for herself as a modern day Scream Queen thanks to her roles in horror projects like The Final Girls or the critically acclaimed Ryan Murphy series American Horror Story.
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Here, she’s the doe-eyed protagonist of the movie and while she is likeable in her character, her performance isn’t as captivating as her elder sisters’ in the other movies in this franchise. Jonas Bloquet’s Frenchie is easily the most fun of the three, the classically handsome actor is written as a comic character and the actor is charming and funny enough for Frenchie to become worth rooting for. The film is easily the least scary Conjuring movie date and also the most boring. Nun isn’t only predictable though, it’s the silly horror movie where people always do dumbest thing even if it doesn’t make any sense.
The Nun is in its essence a “cash grab” film, a film made entirely for the purpose of making money by banking on the success of previous, far superior films. The film has a few intentional and few unintentional gags but what really brings the movie down is lack of a proper plot and tight pace. Even more damning is The Nun’s use of standard-issue jump scares at every possible turn and letting it’s magical Romanian setting and skilled actors go to waste in service of a horror story that never quite takes off.