Shannon Griffiths | 11 September 2018

The highly anticipated spin-off of The Conjuring 2 and fifth instalment in the supernatural horror film series featuring a pair of Conjuring and Annabelle films, The Nun follows a priest and Catholic novitiate sent to investigate an unholy secret in Romania as they unwillingly encounter unspeakable evil in the process.

Taking place in 1952, original star Vera Farmiga’s younger sister Taissa Farmiga leads a well-assembled cast starring Demián Bichir, Jonas Bloquet and Bonnie Aarons reprising the title role of “Valak The Nun”. A franchise known for genuine spine-chilling scares although, despite its best efforts with spooky aesthetic and dedicated performances, a weak narrative and lack of terror may leave many feeling Nun too happy.

A young nun living at the Cârța Monastery in 1952 Romania takes her own life after coming face to face with a demonic entity dressed as a Nun (Aarons). Father Burke (Bichir) - a priest with a haunted past and Sister Irene (Farmiga) - a novice Nun close to taking her final vows are sent by the Vatican to investigate the disturbance. Attempting to determine whether the Monastery remains holy or not but instead uncovering sinister happenings within the secluded abbey. The pair gain the help of local villager Frenchie (Bloquet) as they mount a plan to condemn the malevolent force capable of indescribable destruction once and for all. With their lives, faith and very souls put at risk, the castle and its grounds become a terrifying battleground between the living and the cursed.

Hyped as the “scariest of them all” depicting the origin story of how Valak came to enter the lives of Lorraine & Ed Warren and set to traumatize audiences once again with the horrifying Nun back to instil nightmares for the next few weeks, it isn’t immediately clear why the spin-off doesn’t quite work as the horror film it is sold to be. With a plethora of clichés and a story that doesn’t really deliver any excitement nor go anywhere, the reasons start to compile rather quickly.

While The Conjuring and its sequel were both chilling ghost-stories claiming to be based in part on true events and delivering genuine flashes of horror so intense you would involuntarily be forced to jump right out of your seat, The Nun is unfortunately and disappointingly not very scary at all. Rather than utilising the terrific Bonnie Aarons’ portrayal of the titular demonic nun (widely considered the scariest and best part from The Conjuring 2) in all the ways you’d expect her to be in a stand-alone film, the character instead takes a back seat to creaky floors, predictably tame jump-scares and other face-less nuns who appear for no apparent reason.

By no means a terrible movie or one worth making a mockery of, there are things here that work, and when they work, they work well. Including terrific set design and lighting techniques that are able to transport you right into 1950’s Romania and certain eerie elements that have all the makings of an excellent horror film. The slow burn of a religious mystery does its job in keeping you interested for its short running-time but somewhere in the middle loses its tone and becomes less The Exorcist and more an old episode of Scooby-Doo.

There was committed performances from all talent involved, especially that of modern-day Scream- Queen and American Horror Story alumni, Taissa Farmiga who was really the bright spark of the whole picture. Impressive visual effects attempt to and almost save the day but the final result when all is said and done is a film that whilst still entertaining for the most part, fails as the horror-fest it promised on the tin.

Nowhere near on par with The Conjuring films and easily the weakest link in the entire series, a lack of tension, suspense or any true sense of dread prevent this one from being remembered as anything but two nuns down.

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