Yep, it’s yet another addition to the rapidly growing fraternity of the Conjuring universe, the most recent ballooning franchise that James Wan seems to create almost accidentally. But this time, instead of Annabelle, the jaundiced dolly with the crack house stare that’s made numerous appearances so far, it’s the turn of The Conjuring 2’s demonic nun to get a starring role all of her own. Actually a tar-black, horned beastie known as Valak, The Nun apparently has the powers to whip up other spirits to do it’s bidding to freak people out and get into your head to create horrifying visions in the hope that it can achieve something that all demons seemingly want – to choose and possess a human in a supernatural version of one of those damn property shows that are always on TV…
It’s good to have goals I suppose…. even if you’re a monster-nun from hell.
It’s 1952 and a couple of nuns cloistered in a creepy-ass looking monastery in Romania are being bothered by some malevolent force that’s trapped in a dank chamber below ground. After the elder of the two is yanked off by an unseen force the other takes her life after realising that to stop this thing from escaping, she needs to deny it a host body and after her crow-pecked corpse is found by Frenchie, a villager who regularly brings supplies. The call goes out to the Vatican who enlists the services of Father Burke, a man who’s had experiences of the spooky kind before, and the priest heads off to investigate matters like Columbo in a clerical collar with novice nun Sister Irene in tow.
Upon arrival, weird shit starts to happen virtually immediately: the frozen body of the dead nun has moved since Frenchie stored it, Burke starts having terrible visions of his past that seem real and every so often, reality itself shifts like like undisputed gluten leaving people in horrible predicaments like being buried alive.
Finally trapped inside until the following morning, Sister Irene has to pit her faith against the toothy Valak in order to figure out how to thwart the possession-happy demon before it eagerly claims her soul like a free meal on a maxed out Nando’s card.
When you consider all the effort the main two Conjuring movies do yo realise their decade-hopping tales that weaves “real life events” into “utterly made up bullshit” so deftly, it’s always a little galling to see how little effort the scripts of the spinoffs seem to get. Ok, no one is expecting David Mamet levels of complexity from a flick involving a wraith in a wimple, but the plot of The Nun is staggeringly infinitesimal and basically involves it’s leads wandering around dusty old corridors while we wait for the next loud noise or musical sting to jar us back on track.
Following in the footsteps of Annabelle: Creation by hiring a fresh new director with prior horror experience, The Nun has at it’s helm Corin Hardy, who impressed the hell out of me with his mossy debut, The Hallow (which explains the cute little cameo from Michael Smiley) but comes a little unstuck thanks to the lack of script he has to play with. To give him his due, it’s certainly the most visually appealing of the Conjuring spin-offs, with creaky houses and cobwebby farms giving way to full on gothic monasterys soaked in blue lights that gives Hardy decent reign to stage the occasional cool looking set piece like a terrified Frenchie crawling away through a misty field of crucifix-shaped headstones from a mutilated zombie-nun (this movie fucking loves it’s crucifixes and dry ice) or another scene that cheekily homages Lucio Fulci’s City Of The Living Dead’s buried alive scene right down to the hopeful rescuer almost splitting the skull of the poor victim with their rescue tool. However, you feel that Hardy may have only taken the job because his work on the seemingly unfilmable The Crow reboot was dragging on and there’s a definite sense that he’s only here for the work and his hearts no in it. That being said, he produces some cool horror imagery and some noticable gore (the crow-beak facial on a dead nun is a highlight) and despite essentially being a never ending series of jumpy set-pieces, it still proves to be more fun than the more, dour Annabelle movies.
The cast go through the motions with lead Demiań Bichir doing the tortured hero priest thing while oddly looking like someone mashed Bruce Campbell and Jeffrey Combs together into one body, while prolific neo-scream queen, American Horror Story’s Taissa Farmiga (I was today year old when my dumb-ass actually found out she is Vera’s sister), is sweetly virginal as Sister Irene, although both kind of have zero nuance and their characters insist on every trick Valak throws at them no matter how illogical it is (they’re told repeatedly that there’s no nuns present and yet genuinely doesn’t think anything’s amiss when some just turn up out of nowhere like Deliveroo now deals in transporting holy folk). They do stand out more than everyone else, however, mainly because almost all of the other nuns look exactly the bloody same and numerous times you find yourself going “wait, isn’t she dead?” when it’s a completely different character entirely.
While it’s actually neat to see Bonnie Aarons’ titular creature again actually stretching her legs (she didn’t really have THAT much to do in the flesh during The Conjuring 2) she still isn’t doing much more than slowly striding down corridors or sprouting 70% more fangs in order to roar at someone, but maybe a proposed solo sequel will give her more to do except for glaring at you like a six foot penguin that’s been possessed by the Evil Dead…
This fifth entry into an ever ballooning universe is generally inoffensive, dumb fun, but unless the Conjuring spinoffs start seriously upping their game, I personally will be having nun of it…