After being frightened by The Conjuring 2 , we’ve been haunted by the brief glimpses of the demon Nun Valak from the film. Now, there’s an entire film dedicated to the origins of the evil spirit in The Nun , a prequel to 2016 film and the fifth in The Conjuring universe. Valak’s physical manifestation is a grotesque grey-faced nun with rotting flesh, dark-circled golden eyes and fangs on an enlarged mouth that could swallow a human face. She/he/it has its own eerie soundtrack too. Up close on a big screen, the sight is ghastly. But when such a frightening figure only strangles its victims, the fear ends up being anti-climactic. That pretty much sums up the essence of The Nun .
- Director: Corin Hardy
- Cast: Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet
- Storyline: A nun has committed suicide in a Romanian abbey, Father Burke and Sister Irene must investigate the evil entity that has caused the death.
This 2018 prequel goes back to the Cârța Monastery in 1952 Romania where a nun (the legitimate kind) has committed suicide. The Vatican is interested in investigating how a member of the clergy could succumb to the worst sin imaginable. They send Father Anthony Burke (Demián Bichir) and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) to solve the mystery. What they find is an unholy force that’s yearning to break free and unleash horror into the world.
Valak’s choice of inflicting pain notwithstanding, when a film tries to jump scare you into acquiescence, there’s a huge problem lurking beneath the surface. There are zombie nuns with disfigured faces that seem like a scene out of Sam Raimi’s campy Evil Dead (1981). At one point, The Nun takes its audience on a scavenger hunt where the protagonists have to unearth a relic. The sequence seems to be heavily inspired by Angels & Demons (2009) where the clergy duo draw cues from the placement of a life-size statue of Mother Mary. Hilariously, there’s a beacon of light accompanied to a choral ‘ah’ that leads to the eureka moment.
With a basic screenplay that entirely relies on visual elements, The Nun unfurls as an oppressively ham-fest that could have been a lot more economical. Director Corin Hardy is so desperate to scare his audiences he resorts to repeating his tricks. Case in point several instances where a figure turns around revealing a possessed entity or the use of reflections in mirrors. Unlike The Conjuring and Annabelle films, The Nun’ s eventual reveal too underwhelms, much like its formulaic approach.
Perhaps the film’s plot would have surprised and entertained in the 90s. But after exposure to intelligent efforts like The Witch, The Babadook or Under the Shadows and even its own peers in The Conjuring universe, The Nun is disappointing. Someone really ought to tell Hardy: jump scares alone does not a horror film make.