The Nun stars Taissa Farmiga, Demian Bichir, and James Bloquet and was directed by Corin Hardy. Set in 1952, it tells the story of novitiate nun, Sister Irene, played by Taissa Farmiga, as she accompanies a priest to investigate an incident at a Romanian abbey. The Nun was the second spin-off character that the Conjuring Universe spawned and the third spin-off movie. And at that point, the spin-offs were a bit of a toss-up when it came to quality.
The first Annabelle movie was very underwhelming, but Annabelle: Creation was unexpectedly decent. So, I didn’t quite know how to feel about the prospect of a Nun movie. Her introduction in The Conjuring 2 was chilling, with that whole office shadow sequence being one of the scariest and most memorable scenes in the movie. She was creepy and formidable, so I was definitely interested in knowing more, but I had felt the same way about Annabelle after the first Conjuring film. But cause the last spin-off film had shown pretty significant improvement, I against my better judgement was sorta looking forward to this movie. And that was a mistake.
There are a lot of issues here, but before I dive into those, I do want to touch on the things I liked about this movie cause it’s not all bad. I actually really liked the initial set-up for this film. I thought the mystery aspect and the investigatory angle were both compelling. I also liked the introduction of our main characters, especially Sister Irene, and it made me want to go along with them and learn the truth about what was happening in this abbey. The first act sets up all of this interesting stuff and then abandons most of it in favor of one of the most generic horror stories you could come up with.
The film does benefit though from some very cool filming locations. Much of the movie was shot on-location in Romania, so the various abbey and tunnel scenes take on a grander feel than they would’ve had they all been sets made for the film. And I know you’re waiting for it, so yes, the cinematography’s good here. But I will say, of the first five Conjuring Universe films, I do think it’s the weakest from a technical standpoint. It has some really nice looking shots and a few cool transitions and camera angles, but it didn’t really stand out to me in that way like all of the previous films had. Similarly, this movie didn’t encapsulate its time period like its predecessors had.
The Nun’s set in 1952, only three years before Annabelle: Creation, but you’d never guess it by looking at it. To be fair, this is largely due to the fact that this movie takes place in 600 year old buildings, but even the filming style is more gothic horror than period horror, which feels a bit out of place in the Conjuring Universe. So, when I reviewed Annabelle, I joked that you could’ve called that film Jump Scare: The Movie cause of how prevalent the jump scares were. I don’t even know what we’d call The Nun cause this film obliterates Annabelle in terms of the number of jump scares. And jump scare is really a misnomer here.
I should be saying jump startle cause none of the moments are actually scary. Jump scares can be used effectively in good horror movies it’s just that most films use them as a crutch to get a cheap scare rather than taking the time to build up tension and deliver something truly chilling on a more visceral level. And that’s exactly the trapping that The Nun falls into. Despite having an incredibly creepy antagonist and a location ripe for a horror movie, it fails at creating any sort of atmosphere or tension. You might be physically tensed up while watching, but it’s only because you know that every few minutes, the movie’s gonna hit you with some ear-piercingly loud music or screaming and the momentary flash of a creepy image. And this movie is so unbelievably full of those moments, that the jump scares don’t even make you jump after a while.
The scare cycle of this movie falls into such a predictable and repetitive pattern. You know when every jump scare’s gonna happen. You know that every time a character’s stupidly walking around in the dark with a lantern for no reason (which happens probably twenty times in this movie) that we’re gonna see the scary thing before they do. Without fail, we see the same thing happen again and again. We’re focused on a character walking towards the camera, they think they hear something off to the side, so we pan to nothingness, pan back and see that now suddenly some creepy thing is behind our character, followed shortly by a jump scare. It’s cool and effective the first time or two, but it’s done like twenty times in this movie, so it becomes laughable in its predictability. All of this and we haven’t even really touched on the story.
The Nun was a creepy character that had the potential to have a very interesting backstory. And the mystery set-up of the first act made it seem like they were gonna explore that. But amid all of the jump scares and incessantly recurring imagery, the story devolves into one of the most predictable, dull things you could imagine with this type of plot. I know it sounds crazy to say that a movie about a demonic nun is dull, but it is. And being uninteresting is tough enough for a horror movie, but on top of that, it’s very poorly written and structured.
There are just too many perfectly convenient moments in the plot or characters are somehow magically aware of something that we know, but they would have no way of knowing. And then there are just these gaping holes in the story. I don’t know if you could really call them plot holes, but they’re just these unfinished ideas or dropped plot threads that get set-up in the first act and never really expanded upon.
The character of Sister Irene is probably the biggest example of this, especially considering this is part of the broader Conjuring Universe. It’s implied that she’s chosen for this mission because of her past experience with visions. And so that on its own would make you think of Lorraine Warren and her clairvoyant visions. But on top of that, Taissa Farmiga who happens to be Vera Farmiga Lorraine Warren’s much younger sister, was cast as Sister Irene.
There’s a lot of family resemblance there, so there’s no way that that casting was just a coincidence. Yet, that likely connection is never expanded on or even addressed here, which is a bit frustrating and strange for a franchise that seems to pride itself on its many interconnections. Alright, let’s talk about the pros and cons.
The only real pro here is the set-up and first act. It does what a horror movie opening should do. It creeps you out a little, deliver a mystery that you want answers to, and introduces its main characters as people who seem real, but have a little mystery to them. I found the first act to be pretty compelling, but then it just quickly goes downhill. On the con side, the biggest issue has gotta be the jump scares.
I mean, I thought the number of jump scares in Annabelle was ridiculous, but this movie somehow takes it even further. Horror’s a subjective thing, but there aren’t any true scares in this film. It might make you jump and might get your pulse up a bit, but aside from a few fleeting moments of vaguely creepy imagery, there just isn’t anything to this movie on the scare side of things. No tension, no atmosphere just a bunch of cheap startle moments. Con number two is how repetitive this movie is.
The jump scares certainly contribute to this some, but even the story beats are repetitive. Our characters keep finding themselves in the same types of situations over and over again.
There are so many shots of characters slowly creeping around graveyards or down abbey tunnels in the dark while holding a lantern. It got to the point that I was kinda laughing to myself every time it happened, more so when the pan away and back technique would inevitably reveal some creepy Nun suddenly lurking in the background. The third con has gotta be the story. This movie is a dull mess. Obviously, the two previous cons get incorporated into this third one, but the problems run deeper than predictability and bad scares.
The story frequently makes no sense. Random plot threads get added, others get dropped as the story goes. Characters make remarkably dumb choices ñ often leading them to walking around in the dark holding lanterns. Other characters show up at just the right time every time. And on top of that, the actual background and lore for Valak ñ the Nun ñ is the most generic, least interesting thing you could imagine for a story like this. Before I give you my rating and recommendations, I want to remind you that if you’re interested in buying The Nun or any of the films I mention today, I do have affiliate links for all of them in the description below.
I get a small commission from anything you buy using one of my links, so I’d really appreciate if you’d use them if you’re in the market for any of these movies. I’m gonna give The Nun 2 out of 5 paws. What starts off as a potentially interesting story about a truly haunting character, devolves into a repetitive jump scare fest that fails to add any new depth to the Conjuring Universe. I would recommend The Nun to Conjuring Universe completionists or people who want a fairly throwaway modern horror film with a few creepy images. As part of the Universe, this movie doesn’t really add anything other than questions and speculation about the potential link between Sister Irene and Lorraine Warren. I’m hoping that a future movie will provide something that improves and alters the context of this film after the fact, like Annabelle: Creation did for Annabelle, but as it currently solitarily stands, there’s not all that much to like about this movie. If you liked The Nun, I would definitely recommend The Conjuring 2.
That film introduced the Nun character, has all of her scariest scenes to date, and being one of the core Universe films, is actually a really good, effective horror movie in itself. If you liked the references to exorcisms and want another horror movie steeped in religion, you should check out The Exorcist. Like this film, it features two members of the Church who are called in to investigate a strange circumstance and find themselves facing a powerful demonic presence. And if you want another over-the-top demon movie, you might want to watch Constantine.
It’s more of a comic book horror movie than a straight horror movie, but it tackles several of the concepts and images found in this film in a much more interesting and entertaining way. Alright, a couple questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen The Nun? If so, what’d you think of it? And number two: What’s your favorite religious horror movie? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below so we can get a discussion going.