Is The Nun a worthy contribution to the surprisingly versatile The Conjuring series, or is it as dull and humorless as Sunday school with Sister Jude? Also: meet the brood!
By Macabre Bros and Brahs
Somehow, someway, this September is five years and one month of Macabre Bros. Seems like just yesterday we (Phil and Chris) were reviewing our favorite horror flicks for tens of our friends, but mostly ourselves. Then we got sauced one time, launched The Drinking Games and started getting dozens of hits per week. Dozens! By strangers!! We were so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed once, when it was just the two of us…
(cue the Motown)
But sometimes, you’ve gotta shake shit up. And sometimes, like our namesake Mario Brothers (don’t ask), you’ve gotta give the family rocket-fueled goombas and banana peels — get the picture? Mario Kart is WAY better than the original Mario games.
Anyway, meet the new-and-improved, extended MACABRE BROS. FAMILY in our first group film review! We’re five (give or take) horror-movie fanatics with different opinions about slashers, zombies, exorcisms, Michael Myers and which of the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels is best.
Except who wants to read anymore? Neither do we. This Halloween season, come back for the next big thing from the Macabre Bros and Brahs (rhymes with clodcast…)
Kailyn gets most of the blame for suggesting The Nun (2018) in the first place, so batter up!
I expected a lot from The Nun walking into the theater. The Conjuring universe has set up a successful franchise, if you pretend the first Annabelle movie didn’t happen. The stories in the films are better than your average possession movies: The demons have motives. Mostly. But The Nun is still a bit of an enigma.
Viewers were first introduced to the demon nun in The Conjuring 2. She seems to be following Lorraine Warren. Why the demon picks Lorraine is not explained in that movie and (spoiler alert) it’s not explained in this one either. My horror senses are telling me there is another nun movie on the horizon that will connect this new movie to the second Conjuring.
A lot of the better jump scares in the movie are in the trailer, which is the ultimate sin for any horror movie to commit. There are a few good ones still hiding in there, but they are few and far between. The demon nun herself is only hinted at in the beginning of the movie — we don’t see her face until about 40 minutes into the movie. For a horror movies that’s only 96 minutes, that’s a long time without really showing the titular character.
Despite not having as good a story as its predecessors in The Conjuring universe, The Nun is still a pretty creepy movie. I looked over my shoulder a lot more than was probably safe while driving home from the theater. With a short running time, it seemed like the creepy vibe started almost immediately. From there, it’s a slow build-up to the first real jump scare, which involves a dead nun and the cute, slightly pathetic Frenchman who acts as comic relief and convenient plot device.
The movie is based in 1952 Romania in a Catholic convent called the Abbey of St. Carta. Romania is an easy target for horror movies. Transylvania, the central region of the country, is the birth place of Dracula. Like Salem in Massachusetts, Romania has turned Dracula to their benefit, bringing tourists in for scares during the Halloween season. I went to Romania in October several years ago and you can’t escape the Drac.
Supposedly, the Abbey St. Carta actually was used as a Roman Catholic abbey for monks. They were known as the “white monks” because they wore white habits with a black scapular. Sound familiar? Even better: these monks supposedly haunt the abbey to this day.
If there were an Oscar for Best Ominous Stare, The Nun would win, hands down. This film tries to milk every last close-up for so much terror and meaning, I felt like the cast was watching me more than I was watching them. It’s when I knew director Corin Hardy would try way too hard to scare the bejeezus out of me with convent sisters, a tortured priest and the demonic nun from the title. Too bad it rarely worked.
I’ve got to disagree with Kailyn and say one of my biggest issues with The Nun is how much this movie showed its possessed nun. After the umpteenth time she emerged from a shadowy corner or hallway, I almost started giggling at her janky teeth and sunken eyes, wondering when she’d start belting out “Feed My Frankenstein.” I’ve never seen Conjuring 2 or Annabelle, but one thing the original Conjuring did beautifully was build tension and keep my attention by implying, not showing, until the exact right moment. I was hoping for the same here but, nope, it was more lame 2000s Jap horror than eerie haunted-convent flick.
That’s not to say The Nun totally sucked. I’m with Ryan — the shadowy Romanian setting is legit creepy — and it’s even creepier knowing the place might actually be haunted by dead Catholics. Kailyn, where do you dig up this shit? If I find out one of those monks had a mishap in the cemetery, I might judge The Nun a little differently when it’s on FX in a few years.
Until then, this is the film in a nutshell: When the tortured priest finds himself six feet under, with only a bell attached by string to a headstone for company, the good Sister Irene (a game Taissa Farmiga) inexplicably knows exactly where to look in the dead of night, as if this kind of thing happens all the time. It doesn’t… unless a film needs plot contrivances to (spoiler alert) bury a priest alive. The Nun does.
The Nun was a disappointing and boring addition to The Conjuring series. I thought the setting and the location of the movie was spot on, but the movie itself did not deliver the old-school punch of creepy scariness that The Conjuring 1 and 2 brought. It had a lot of potential, but the jump scares were predictable, and not once did I feel uncomfortable.
There was no build-up to anything and I thought they gave to much backstory. Before Rob Zombie remade Halloween, John Carpenter was smart not to reveal why Michael Meyers killed his family — the unknown is scarier. I feel like that concept made the original The Conjuring movies more entertaining and suspenseful. The Nun explains too much without really going anywhere.
I’ll start with the positives. The Nun has really great sets. And no, I’m not just saying that because I’m reaching and can’t think of anything good to say. At least 80 percent of a good horror movie is atmosphere and this one delivers. Romania is creepy just at mention (thanks to Hollywood conditioning and various historical aspects) so having it set there plus in an old medieval abbey castle to boot did wonders for the spookiness factor. The setup was impeccable.
The plot is where it breaks down a bit. It’s pretty simplistic, which is fine, though there were definitely at least a few scenes that could have been left on the editing room floor (did we really need to see Father Burke’s meeting with the other priests/cardinals at the Vatican?). I liked the action-y aspects of the movie, complete with zombie-nun fights with fire, axes, shotguns and various graveyard battles. I liked the character of Sister Irene. Father Burke was just kind of a one-note wonder (more of a one-expression wonder, really), and Frenchie …. was there. He was supposed to be the comic relief, but all his jokes fell flat — and not just for me, out of the whole audience of the theater I was in, there was maybe a stray chuckle every five or so jokes. He’s cute though, so points for that, I guess?
Special effects were fun and not too terrible (no obviously horrendous CGI). The demon nun was great, and they weren’t afraid to show her, though they also did plenty with shadows and creepy hallways. I didn’t mind that they showed her a lot, but it wasn’t always scary.
They could have done a lot more explaining, and maybe some of that was me not being too familiar with The Conjuring universe as a whole. I have vague memories of seeing one of the first two long ago, and I saw the first Annabelle in theaters and was not impressed. I’d say this one sort of stays the course for the level of these movies, though it was definitely better than the first Annabelle, by a long shot. A LONG. SHOT.
I would have preferred to know more about Sister Irene, or see her use her powers more, or have her be the one to interpret her childhood visions rather than Father Burke. But all in all, it was an enjoyable flick, and had way more action than I expected, which was a big plus for me.