The cinematic universe started with The Conjuring has been going strong since its inception in 2013. With two films in the main corral, two Annabelle prequels, and now an origin story of that creepy nun we spied in The Conjuring 2, the series seems unstoppable, whether we like it or not. While The Nun is not as much of a trainwreck as Annabelle, it fails to live up to the quality established in the other three films in the franchise.
We begin The Nun with a reminder of how the title bride of Christ fits into this whole world. Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) has visions of the death of her husband Ed (Patrick Wilson), along with visions of this downright creepy nun. She’s tall, thin, has a toothy, reptilian sneer and tends to pop out of shadows, which inspires Lorraine’s paintings. Though the vision of the nun is not tied to a particular artifact in the Warrens’ paranormal quarantine, the story that follows is the origin of what the nun is and how she (it?) finds the way to the Warrens.
This then brings us back to 1952. Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) has yet to take her official nun vows, but she’s unexpectedly called by the Vatican to help investigate a nun’s suicide. Tales of strange events at that abbey in Romania are well known. Irene travels with investigating priest Father Burke (Demián Bichir) and a flirty local named Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet) to find out what happened to that particular nun and what is happening at the possibly cursed nunnery.
As they arrive, it’s very clear that not all is well at the abbey, and the locals were right to stay away. The blood from the now weeks-old suicide won’t dry. The abbey appears empty, and the dead body has moved. What in tarnation could be happening?
Well, The Nun takes its sweet time in getting to that. The film tries its darndest to build up tension and mystery, but does so in the most clichéd ways possible. From telegraphed jump scares, to a chase through sheets hung on laundry lines, The Nun wants you to be spooked before the story really gets going.
When it finally does get weird, it’s perfectly, absurdly, decadent horror. The plot essentially makes no sense at this point, and it takse nearly an hour to get there, but it’s bonkers enough to almost be worth it. Almost.
Beyond the pacing issues, predictable scares, and illogical plot, The Nun makes some confounding casting choices. Taissa Farmiga delivers as good of a performance as she can, considering the material she was given, but her inclusion in the cast is ultimately completely unrelated to her sister Vera’s presence. They look so similar, and are well-known acting siblings, but their roles are unconnected. It feels like an odd choice to hint at a greater unification in The Conjuring world, only to have there be nun. [Sorry, I had to!]
There’s no real risk for The Nun to impact the future of horror or the legacy of the genre, but it’s not a total loss. If only it embraced its more extravagant, indulgent side earlier, it would have been far more worth my time.