The Nun is, unsurprisingly, a pretty worthless movie.
Falling in line with every other spinoff to come from The Conjuring franchise, The Nun fails to capture any of the appealing filmmaking on display in the two core Conjuring films. That’s not to say that those two are paragons of horror cinema, as they themselves employ plenty of tired tropes and have amusingly stood by their “this actually happened” framing, as though there is no doubt in the world that all of the absurd events of the films are historical fact. That said, the Conjuring movies display careful, thoughtful camera work, pacing, and atmosphere, paired with endearing performances from the always-great Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. James Wan does some of his best work in those films; unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the spinoffs, in which he’s typically credited as a producer and/or story writer.
And so continues the downward spiral of the Conjuring spinoff films as they halfheartedly ape many of the techniques in Wan’s core films, without the sense of restraint, patience, or subversion that he brings to his work. And director Corin Hardy’s The Nun may be the worst offender yet, on that front. There are likely half a dozen scares ripped straight out of The Conjuring and retooled for this film, placed exactly where you’d expect them to be, without the slightest intent to surprise you or do something differently. In fact, I think there might be scares stripped out of the other spinoff films as well—though my memory of those is a bit hazy. Either way, The Nun might be, scare for scare, the most unoriginal, uninventive horror film I’ve seen on the big screen—if not ever, then in my recent memory. Every scare has been done before, and done better, and I would think that anyone who’s seen at least a half-dozen modern, “mainstream” horror films could accurately predict every scare in the film, thus negating any fear that the movie tries to induce.
It’s not much fun to write about such an empty movie, especially when it’s not so much an abomination of filmmaking as it is just banal—it can actually be a great time writing about absolute disasters, like, say, Batman V. Superman or The Book of Henry. Unfortunately, The Nun isn’t so entertainingly bad, but rather just bland, boring, and devoid of creativity. Having said that, for my own sake and for yours, I’d like to point to the single moderately positive thing I can say about the film: the main actors’ performances. Now, by contrast of having just called the movie an empty, worthless piece of work, that probably sounds like I’m saying the performances are great. They are not. They’re barely good. But they are trying. Conjuring star Vera Farmiga’s sister Taissa plays a young nun-in-training who accompanies Demián Bichir’s Father Burke—a priest tasked with “miracle hunting” and looking into other strange phenomena in the Catholic church—as he goes to a Romanian convent to investigate the suicide of a young nun. Along the way, they come across a French-Canadian ramblin’ man named Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), who lives in the village near the convent and discovered the body of the nun. I can’t quite say that the three actors have “chemistry,” per se, but it does conjure up a mild feeling of fun and amusement to see them navigate their thick, cruddy dialogue together, and all three do a fair job of “playing scared.”
There’s no point in seeing this movie. I don’t care if you love the Conjuring films, or even the Annabelle films (it’s time to get some help, if that’s the case). I don’t care if you are a horror fanatic who feels compelled to see any film in the genre. I don’t even care if you love nuns or the Catholic church or supernatural powers, or anything like that. This movie brings NOTHING of value to the table, from any of those perspectives. It isn’t scary, it isn’t insightful, it isn’t creative, it’s barely fun, in the most dull sense, and it feels recycled. It’s likely not the worst movie you’ve ever seen, but maybe if it was, it would have been worth the experience.