The latest addition to the increasingly popular Conjuring Universe comes in the form of yet another spinoff titled The Nun – an origin story of the demon witnessed by Lorraine Warren at the beginning of The Conjuring 2, which kites her to the basement to reveal a devastating premonition, before the ghost-busting couple move on to their actual case. Just like the Anabelle films have weaved their own stories tied to the main Conjuring films, the makers attempt to pull a similar feat with The Nun. Does it work? Well, to an extent.
The story takes us to a cathedral in 1952 Romania where nuns are prepared to sacrifice themselves in order to prevent an unspeakable evil from entering the world. The Vatican sends one of their top clergymen investigators, Father Burke, to make sense of what’s actually going on in the decrepit edifice, along with a novitiate nun, Sister Irene, who harbors sacred powers and clairvoyance that she herself is yet to discover. They’re accompanied on their quest by an expat in the land known only as Frenchie due to his French-Canadian ethnicity. Together, the trio have myriad diabolical encounters, and must face umpteen life-and-soul-threatening battles before they can reach the root of the demonic presence and uncover how to contain it.
The main difference why The Conjuring films are superior to their spinoffs is the talent behind the camera. While James Wants both writes and directs the former, he only serves as a producer for the latter. Thankfully, this time he also shares writing credits with Gary Dauberman, which is why The Nun turns out to be the best of these spinoffs yet. There is genuine intrigue in the plot, and some of the clashes between human and spirit-world are genuinely thrilling, even if too few or perhaps none of them leave you spooked. Plus, there’s an overall mysterious aura to the proceedings, backed by seriously atmospheric cinematography by Maxime Alexandre, which elevates the film at least by a notch or two.
While we’re at it, let’s not forget the performances, which hold the screenplay and narrative together every time things threaten to fall off the rails. Oscar nominee Demian Bichir is earnest and moving as a priest who puts the Lord’s work above all else while Jonas Bloquet is cool and charming as the uncontrollable flirt with balls of steel. But it’s young Taisaa Farmiga (younger sister to Vera Farmiga – one-half of the Conjuring couple) who leaves you captivated with her unflinching belief as a novitiate while grappling with the vulnerability of dealing with her gifts. These three are the main reason for keeping you engrossed even when the writing becomes cluttered or Director Corin Hardy tries his level best to make a mess of things by attempting to juggle too many plot points and sub-plots and copious spirits, which eventually lead to loopholes that could have easily been avoided.
To sum it up, The Nun has its merits, but it’s not that scary for a horror film, despite so many ghosts appearing out of nowhere for no apparent reason. The mystery keeps you hooked, but you wish the chill element wasn’t missing. What keeps the film afloat are the performances and some great camerawork, which succeed in evoking an eerie, gothic atmosphere. Overall, it’s better than the Annabelle films, but nowhere close to the two Conjuring movies in the same universe.
Movified Rating: 3/5