Movie Review: "The Nun" (2018)
It’s a funny thing: in a movie based on a very true and very famous English haunting (the Enfield Poltergeist) that also introduced a killer monster in the form of The Crooked Man (played to perfection by the great Javier Botet), everyone remembers The Nun (a.k.a. the demon, Valak). My wife wouldn’t even go and see the newest entry in “The Conjuring Universe” with me and The Kid. True story. That nun freaks her the fuck out.
The fifth movie in the franchise, The Nun tells the story of Father Burke (Demián Bichir, The Hateful Eight), a Vatican priest who’s sent to a remote Romanian abbey to investigate the suicide of a nun with the aid of Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga, American Horror Story), a novitiate who’s on the cusp of taking her vows. Along for the ride is the local who discovered the body, nicknamed Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet, Elle). They are soon pulled into a mystery in a place so soaked in evil that the remaining nuns must constantly pray just to keep it at bay.
It’s a bit of a bare-bones premise, but I’m okay with that. The thing to remember about “The Conjuring Universe” is that it’s just that- a cinematic universe intent on cranking out a few more films for horror junkies out there to chew on. It may take me some time to decide where The Nun ranks in the overall pantheon, but I enjoyed myself with this technically sound movie that doesn’t do anything shockingly original but hits all the familiar notes properly.
The shooting location of Corvin Castle in Romania is absolutely fucking perfect! Not even the most hardened of haters will find anything negative to say about the vibe and setting of the whole picture. It’s a dark maze of foggy corridors and steadily mounting tension that serves as its own character and goes to show the power of shooting on location instead of on a sound stage. You’ll find more than one competently average scene enhanced by the force of the surroundings; it may be the biggest victory in the whole shebang.
The main trio are essentially the only characters in the entire film. More fleshing out would have done wonders for the investment, but luckily it’s all pulled together by solid performances from talented actors. Bichir is always magnetic, and Farmiga is a vision as usual. She’s the sister of Vera Farmiga, by the way, who plays Lorraine Warren in the other films of the series. That’s clever casting; she brings much of the same backbone as her much older sibling. She deftly transitions from timid and intimidated to resolute and hardened without feeling hokey or overdone.
As for Valak (Bonnie Aarons, Mulholland Drive), I’ve had multiple people say that less is more. I don’t feel that director Corin Hardy (The Hallow) overdid it with her, however. This is a movie dedicated to the character, after all. You’re supposed to see more of her. With that being said, the mythology of the character and the makeup design don’t need to be in your face all the time.
Also, this is still a movie inside “The Conjuring Universe”. There’s never just one demon to worry about, and The Nun is no exception. Father Burke’s history is revealed mainly through the story of Daniel (August Maturo), a possessed boy that Burke ultimately failed to help. He steals the scenes that he is in and sets up one of the film’s most effective terrors.
Have you ever heard about the bells that used to be connected to coffins to ensure people weren’t buried alive? The more important question is: are you claustrophobic? If you are, then you really shouldn’t watch that scene. Just don’t. The fact that it’s ultimately used as cheap exposition doesn’t take away from its visceral power.
In short, The Nun doesn’t break any new ground in terms of pushing the story forward in a way that hasn’t been seen before, but that doesn’t make it a bad movie. It’s an R-rated, in your face horror film that takes the tropes and does them reasonably well. When you combine that with the fact that it’s carried by a couple of talented actors in a stellar setting for some good, old-fashioned unholiness, you’re left with a film that should stand the test of time and be remembered by a generation.
Also, it has already made in the neighborhood of 200 million dollars, and I do love to see R-rated horror succeed on the big screen. Huzzah!