There’s a dearth of good, exciting, and truly thrilling horror stories in film and The Nun is no exception. As the latest installment in The Conjuring universe, this movie had so much potential and a wide range of options to make it a truly captivating and spooky story, but it fell flat on its face instead.
In a running series of so-called horror flicks, The Nun joins other popular movies such as The Conjuring and Annabelle, whose stories are all connected with each other. The Nun, however, is a prequel and establishes some history for the demon that has made its own appearances in the aforementioned movies.
In 1952 Romania, an abbey gains the attention of the Vatican when a young nun has committed suicide. The reasons for the death are unknown and the Vatican needs to find out what happened, so they send in Father Burke (Demián Bichir), an expert in things mystical, for better or worse. Joining Father Burke is Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), a young novitiate who has yet to take her vows. The two will journey to Romania and find themselves in the middle of everything that has gone wrong at the abbey.
Their guide and transportation, Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), provides charm and humor as he meets and, eventually, helps to fight off the evil that has plagued the area. Frenchie will become an essential member of the team and, in the end, to the story.
In The Nun, the Nun in question is actually the demon Valak. This story provides for some of the demon’s history and why the abbey is cursed in the first place. However, the time spent on who Valak is and how it came to be is minimal and ultimately becomes a lesser point with all that’s happening onscreen.
The Nun really leaves little to the imagination. Nothing is clever about it, the demon is on full display, and its “scares” are seen from a mile away. The film makes the mistake of prioritizing shock over subtlety.
What this story has got going for itself, however, is its dark, creepy ambiance and well-designed sets. Watching the film, you can feel that nobody belongs in this place and a night alone there would truly be terrifying.
It’s unfortunate that The Nun would fall into a perpetual rut that seems to be affecting most films in the horror genre these days. It’s simply not scary. Where recent films like Hereditary break out and impress, The Nun simply doesn’t care about taking itself seriously. And, in horror, that’s not the right approach to take.