“The Nun” is a prequel of sorts to “The Conjuring” series, directed by James Wan. The series provides an oddly expansive film canon for something that started five years ago, containing two mainline films, one prequel with “Annabelle” and now another with “The Nun.” “The Conjuring” films scored over 80 percent on Rotten Tomatoes (although the spin-off “Annabelle” would not fare nearly as well), and while “The Nun” is not anywhere as bad as the first “Annabelle,” it is not exactly exciting in its own right.
The film does diverge in a certain sense from its predecessors by ditching the urban American household setting and use of real stories (although how true to life those stories are can be considered reaching). In some ways, it plays to the movie’s strengths, as the new setting does well with cinematography to create a disturbing and eerie atmosphere. There is some issue with the setting, and as for all the story’s pretension towards a religious subtext, it is essentially just a ghost story in a spooky castle with a light Christian theme. The titular nun is just an old woman with bad skin, and that does not exactly inspire any fear.
The main character, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga, “American Horror Story: Roanoke”), is also lacking, as she is severely deficient in any actual emotion. Any moment where she screams looks like it could be screenshot and posted in a clickbait thumbnail on YouTube. One moment in particular near the end employs a very silly-looking shaky cam that followed her over-exaggerated screams and brought out fits of laughter. The rest of the cast fulfill their roles quite well, but the pool of characters is kept small, which works toward the film’s benefit. With a small cast, an opportunity for a richer cast of characters was presented and thoroughly ignored. With fewer characters, there is inevitably less room for anyone to get attacked since, once they kill off one character, 33 percent of their entire cast is gone.
The film is not completely devoid of scares, but any attempt at breaking away from the formula of jump scares has been sorely missed. Anyone who is familiar with horror films will be able to see the punches coming a mile away. There was also a very odd problem where some actors’ lines were indiscernible, possibly because of a mix of their impressions, dialects and (more importantly) the annoying echo that fills the halls of the castle. This problem seemed to go away later when dialogue takes a backseat to the action.
All of these are not deal-breakers, and the film does have some stand-out moments. One certain scene in a graveyard will creep out many with claustrophobia. This is also not to mention that the comedic relief character actually has some pretty funny lines (when they can be heard) that got a brief chuckle.
“The Nun” is simply forgettable, and that is the only thing it really does wrong. It is perfectly digestible, a little scary here and a bit funny there, but none of its characters ever evolve, and the scares are uninspired. One will find better, but they can certainly search for worse if they try.
Image from Warner Bros. Pictures via YouTube.com