Before I talk about The Nun we can’t forget where its inspiration resides — The Conjuring Universe is now responsible for collecting a flurry of horror films within its fold. That being said, it is no solemn secret that the films within the Conjuring Universe have had their share of hits and misses. So what exactly is the sole culprit for this inconsistent quality control? Well it has everything to do with attention to detail and this is where films like Annabelle (2014) and The Nun fall short.
The Nun follows the story of a young nun (Taissa Farmiga) and priest (Demián Bichir) as they visit a remote church under the orders of the Vatican to investigate strange events that have occurred with the Nun’s.
The strong start in horror almost fools you into thinking the entire film will contain creepy and disturbing imagery, however by second act you soon realise this is not the case, the film gets slow, very slow, and the scares become scattered sporadically throughout the film with no real flow. The tone and pacing of this film had good parts and bad – as mentioned, the first act of this film had a terrifying horror sequence that set the bar of quality high, but it was quickly followed up with a rather stale introduction to the lead characters. The end of the film felt more like an action adventure comedy than the film it was showing itself to be in the beginning; these complete tonal and pacing shifts made it difficult to judge whether everything felt cohesive or not, it wasn’t messy, but it didn’t feel consistent.
It is a collection of small aspects done in ineffective ways that force The Nun to the side-lines. The storyline is two dimensional and doesn’t quite offer the same startling revelations that you’d would expect from similarly made films within this universe, the monster is overexposed and therefore results in the audience losing a major degree of fear, the characters are vague and their backstories felt rushed or non-existent, and finally the actual horror is chocked full of too many jump-scares, not to say jump-scares were bad, just overdone.
As for the performances – Taissa Farmiga plays the role of a young novitiate named Sister Irene, Taissa works well within this film within the confines of her script but her character lacks depth and her backstory is shared with the films other lead character Father Burke played by Mexican-American actor Demián Bichir. Frankly neither of the lead characters are interesting and the film would have been better off with only one lead to focus on. There is also a supporting character named Frenchy who happens to be more likable than the second lead character despite being almost pure comedic relief.
Whether it is the character building to make us relate to the victims of the demonic infestation, use of effective camerawork and lighting to reveal or hide horror, or the ominous sound mixing used to send a tingle up the audiences spine, all of these aspects come together to build a dark and intense atmosphere within a horror film, these small aspects are where it falters. The costuming and set design is where this film strives, but there are moments where some sets look too fake and too generic to be real — something The Conjuring films avoided.
The Nun does not leave you with that spine tingling feeling that The Conjuring films did, nor does it creep you out on your drive back home, it borders that thin line between being an entertaining B-list horror flick and a well-made horror film. Though not quite as holy as James Wan’s delightfully directed horror films — The Nun works well enough as campy entertainment, despite being possessed with mirroring The Conjuring’s story arcs.