Director: Corin Hardy
Starring: Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet, Bonnie Aarons
Run Time: 96 mins
Following Marvel’s success, many studios have gone about trying to establish their own cinematic universes, and whilst some have come to fruition, by far and away the strongest is The Conjuring series. Beginning with James Wan’s exemplary 2013 horror, there has been a sequel to the mainline Conjuring film and also spin-off’s concerned with the Annabelle doll prevalent in these films and now, The Nun. The Nun is another spin-off based on the evil Valak in The Conjuring 2. Set in Romania in 1952, a Roman Catholic priest and a nun are sent to investigate the death of a nun at the Cârța Monastery. However, as is customary with a horror film, nothing is as it seems and the supernatural entity behind it takes to haunting the protagonists.
Perhaps the simplest way of describing The Nun is by calling it a ‘beautiful disaster’. The film is an absolute trainwreck – the film is edited extremely badly, its overreliance on jump scares mean that it isn’t scary and the story is borderline incoherent. It would be very easy to just completely dismiss this film and rip it apart.
Yet in a post-mortem exercise, it is clear to see that there are some good intentions here. Director Corin Hardy is clearly a horror aficionado which shows in the film’s cineliteracy (there are allusions to some of the Hammer horror films for instance) and the film is quite atmospheric and establishes a chilling setting. There are some breathtaking shots of the exteriors of the monastery which really portray the grandeur and influence it has on its characters. This is by far, the most frightening aspect of the film and leaves a lot to audience interpretation. It’s strange then that Hardy resorts to jump scares, which are all poor and there is not a single memorable one in the film. It’s also strange that Hardy chooses to punish the characters in the worst possible way towards the beginning of the film. There is an extended sequence where a character is stuck in a grave, which is a horrifying scenario but anything that happens to this character afterwards is never as bad. Surely, this sequence would have worked better towards the end of the film? Despite these fatal mis-steps, all of Hardy’s good work in the film’s atmosphere is undone and squandered by how the film has been edited.
Good editing should be invisible in a film – one shouldn’t notice it and the better the editing, the better the pace. The Nun has two editors credited – Michael Allen and Ken Blackwell, so perhaps one edited the film after the other or they both did it together? They constantly cut between different camera angles and shots and every scene in this film is just so brief. The film feels more like a trailer extended to feature-length. If they’d have let the shots breathe a bit and linger, this would have made the film endlessly more atmospheric and the film would be much better paced.
The editors try to cut between the different characters perspectives (as the story necessitates they stupidly split up and get haunted separately) and the narrative is almost incoherent. There were a few moments where I had to guess what was actually going on story-wise even though the film’s narrative is relatively paper-thin anyway.
As for the performances, Demián Bichir and Taissa Farmiga are serviceable with the poor material they’ve been given. It’s a shame that Farmiga in particular isn’t further utilised, particularly as her sister, Vera Farmiga, plays Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring films. After doing a great job with previous entry, Annabelle: Creation, Maxime Alexandre’s cinematography is sound, but the film is often too dark and it is hard to work out exactly what is going on in some frames.
I was really excited to hear that composer Abel Korzeniowski was hired for the film, as he has done some sterling work, particularly Nocturnal Animals. Korzeniowski’s score is suitably creepy and has a couple of memorable cues, but a composer of his statue could have done a better job.
It’s a shame The Nun isn’t as successful as the marketing led me to believe. This film looked like a surefire hit, but all of the film’s best sequences are in the trailer and the abhorrent editing completely kills the film. Even in terms of how the film functions in connecting to other entries, it does so in a strangely forceful manner that isn’t satisfying. Despite being a very disappointing film, there are some promising aspects here and perhaps if the film wasn’t so choppily edited, it would be much better. The Nun overall, represents a weak entry in The Conjuring series, but I certainly preferred it to the first Annabelle by quite some distance. That isn’t a difficult feat to achieve, but it’s a shame that the film isn’t as good as it looked. Perhaps as was the case with Annabelle, a strong sequel can redeem this material and really do it the justice it deserves.