“God ends here.”
Corin Hardy’s THE NUN opened this past weekend to a colossal $131 million worldwide bow, making this the highest opening in the wildly successful Conjuring universe as the fifth technical installment.
THE NUN takes a leap back in time to the early 1950’s where a jaded priest, Father Burke (Demian Bichir)- a “Miracle Hunter”- is sent by the Vatican to investigate a disturbing suicide at a Romanian Monastery where is asked to bring along a novitiate, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) to uncover the disturbing truth behind the cursed monastery.
First and foremost, THE NUN is a film that basks in it’s own atmosphere. The lingering and looming shots of the Castle monastery seem like they wouldn’t be out of place in a 1930’s Universal monster film like, say, DRACULA, right down to the visually engrossing and chilling shots of the nuns sweeping through the fog-laden corridors with crosses accentuating the frame, drawing the audience’s eye with sharp precision. This same sense of old-world filmmaking also finds itself alive when the characters are lingering around the run down Holy buildings, trekking through the misty woods, and being pursued through dangerous catacombs. All of this comes, of course, thanks to Hardy and his Director of Photography Maxime Alexandre who was behind the lens of films like SILENT HILL: REVELATION, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, and THE CRAZIES. The usage of silhouettes, one of my favorite uses of imagery, is doubled down here with the iconic shape of the Nun’s robes sending chills down the audience’s spine with each creeping moment.
While THE NUN lacks a lot of the depth that can be found in James Wan’s two mainline films, THE CONJURING and THE CONJURING II, it certainly pulls it’s weight on lore-duty to explain the demon Valak that has been taunting the Warren Family and the audience since her premier in the latter film in 2016. That lore comes to us in the form of the film’s script by Gary Dauberman who penned ANNABELLE: CREATION (part of The Conjuring universe) and 2017’s stellar IT. Dauberman’s script gives us a great insight into Sister Irene and Father Burke, and the film shockingly doesn’t go for the “disgraced Priest redemption story” we’ve seen a thousand times before. We are simply presented with these characters who are unwavering in who they are, which is refreshing and somewhat more believable that way.
In terms of scares, I saw THE NUN alone (like I do everything these days) and was never startled by anything on screen. There were some great moments and some disturbing scenes, but nothing that made me hold myself tight and want to sprint for the bathroom. This film, more so than the other Conjuring series movies, relies a bit too much on jump scares but not “too” much. Thankfully, quite a few of them are subverted and the entire angle is basically given up on in the film’s home stretch where the showdown with Valak/The Nun takes place. Purely though, based on visual aesthetics, The Nun herself might be one of the most iconic horror monsters put to screen in the genre’s past few years next to only the new Pennywise himself.
What makes THE NUN work so well though is the investment from the audience into this series. The film is bookeneded by moments from THE CONJURING II and the beginning of THE CONJURING, which make this entry into the horror saga feel like a refreshingly fun episode of a very engaging TV series. You would almost expect to see “Previously on…” and “NEXT WEEK ON…” bumpers popping up before and after the credits.
Point is, THE NUN is a very fun movie that should keep genre fans happy as well as pleasing die-hards of The Conjuring’s ever-growing franchise which is set to expand yet again with the untitled film about The Crooked Man from the second installment as well as THE CONJURING III which will of course see Wan returning to helm Ed and Lorraine Warren’s next adventure into the occult.