By Matt DeCristo
James Wan’s 2018 horror movie “The Nun” is proof that the further one wanders from the original story (in this case “The Conjuring”) the more diluted the finished product becomes.
“The Nun” is a spinoff from Wan’s 2016 film “The Conjuring 2” which is of course a sequel to the 2013 original; itself excellent, and one of the best horror movies of the 21st Century. Though its followup is lackluster at best, you’ll need to step back a few more feet to reach the inept quality conjured up with “The Nun.”
The movie does have some areas that I really liked. For starters, the location simply can’t be beat when it comes to a chilling setting; a Romanian monastery nestled deep within the Transylvanian Alps, described by one character as a flight from Bucharest, a bus ride to nowhere, and then a further trek deep into the place where time forgot. The monastery itself is a thing of horror perfection, with limited modern amenities (the story is set in 1952), constructed of thick stone like some old Irish castle, and darkened hallways and chambers that play host to shadows and sounds that simply don’t belong.
The three starring roles are owned by an enjoyable trio of talent, and while each is just a touch too good looking to be the chaste or simpleton they are portraying, I liked them all in their own stylish sort of way. Demian Bichir is easily my favorite character as Father Burke, described as a “Miracle Hunter” that is called forth by the Vatican under only the most extreme of circumstances. Father Burke is sent to the Carta Monastery to investigate the recent suicide of a young nun. Demian Bichir is a great treat to watch in the movie. He wears the wrinkled expressions of a seasoned man with a slick wardrobe, and we get the sense that he has witnessed far more than just an average priest.
Jonas Bloquet plays the comic relief “Frenchie,” a womanizer nothing short of being a flawless fashion model, who is quite unbelievable as a rustic farmer in the remote Carpathian countryside, but nonetheless pulls it off in a very funny kind of way.
The character never takes himself too seriously, and the audience shouldn’t either. If he isn’t flirting with nuns he’s the only one openly frightened of the perilous situations before him. One hysterical scene depicts Frenchie uprooting a giant crucifix from a cemetery and lugging it back to town as a way of protecting himself from ghosts.
The star of the movie is Taissa Farminga as Sister Irene, a nun-in-training (at the films onset she is preparing to take her vows). Sister Irene joins Father Burke, and her spiritual journey and test of faith become a driving force for the plot. At just 24, Taissa Farminga does a great job in the role, being tough and steadfast when needed, and also giving way to fear as any horror movie character needs to do. Taissa is the younger sister of “The Conjuring” star Vera Farminga, and it would be a nice treat to get the two sisters in a film together at some point.
“The Nun” has some jump scares, as one would probably expect from such a film. But that’s all. The remainder of the movie is a misshapen mishmash of special effects and goofy plot.
The nuns of the monastery must keep a continuous prayer chain going in order to keep a demonic entity buried under the floors, but despite this, the demon – who comes in the form of the creepy titular sister, gets out anyway. For some reason, the nuns keep praying anyway, but it doesn’t really matter since the demon managed to escape. I got lost in the attempt at explaining what was going on, which doesn’t seem to be an issue anyway, since as soon the exorcism theme gets introduced (something James Wan can’t seem to get away from) rules no longer apply, and it ruined the movie for me.
I won’t even pretend that “The Nun” is a fun theater treat as we near October. It’s a stupid movie that isn’t worth the effort to sit through. If you want a real scare, get your hands on “The Conjuring,” turn off every light in your home, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.
1/2 out of 4 stars
Matt DeCristo is a cinema lover and movie critic for The Movie Buff (www.themoviebuff.net).