The Nun is the latest film in The Conjuring franchise showcasing the evil origins of the demonic nun Valak who we first see in Conjuring 2. The franchise has always been great at delivering those jump scares we’re all familiar in horror, but that constant unnerving sense of dread and evil is what makes this a fine addition to this world.
There’s an evil lurking in an abbey in Romania and after a suicide committed by a Nun, the Vatican sends Father Burke (Demian Bichir) to investigate. Accompanying him is the young Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) who hasn’t yet taken her vows to become a nun. The man who discovered the body of the Nun and helps our religious protagonist is Frenchie, a French-Canadian traveler who’s been living off the land of Romania.
The set of protagonist we follow aren’t particularly interesting. They aren’t bad by any means and each actor does a fine job in the role, but we aren’t given enough. We know that Father Burke is haunted by a past event and that literally comes back to haunt him. While those sequences are frightening, I’m devoid of any emotional attachment to the character and his past.
The fact that Sister Irene isn’t officially a nun creates some interesting tension in the beginning that unfortunately goes nowhere. While she’s a very likable character, there isn’t much of a character arc. It just seems odd to me that if a demonic nun is trying to kill a Sister and a Priest, neither of them faltered in their belief. Now the most fun character in the film is Frenchie who’s very much the comic relief with the best line. He also happens to be the direct link to the characters in The Conjuring films, which leads to a sudden, but interesting revelation.
Probably my favorite thing about the film is the cinematography. The camera creepily spins around our characters, building tension as new scares emerge from the background haunting our protagonists. The way the camera tilts ever so slightly as it follows the characters in an unnerving setting helps elevates the scene, even if what follows is a cliche jump scare.
In horror films, the setting is just as important as any other character and they manage to breathe life into a gothic setting devoid of any. The history and mythology in the film are truly fascinating and I wish we had more time exploring that, but we got the main gist of it all for it to work.
The set pieces are great as they find a way to make a field of crosses scary; chapels are in ruin, and the final confrontation in the catacombs gives us a sense of dreary awe. Speaking of dreary awe, that’s what the nun/ the demon Valak, gives us. Admittedly, we aren’t really sure how powerful she is and when it comes to the ghosts and apparitions in the castle, we aren’t certain if its Valak or if the place is haunting which makes it confusing.
The film doesn’t offer anything new to the genre and it has about every cliche you can think of in a horror film. What it lacks, it makes up in great set designs and frightening tension; definitely a fun addition to the franchise!