The film takes place in 1952 when a young nun at a cloistered abbey in Romania is found hanging. She’s believed to have taken her own life, and The Vatican sends a priest, Father Burke (Demián Bichir), to investigate the incident. Father Burke is the church’s unofficial miracle searcher and it’s clear The Vatican wants to know if the abbey is still holy ground or if something evil is occurring. Father Burke is also instructed to take a young novitiate who has not yet taken her vows with him, believing she may be able to help him in his investigation.
Once in Romania, Father Burke and Sister Irene seek out Frenchie, the individual who found the nun’s body. Needing to examine the area she was found, as well as the remainder of the abbey, Father Burke and Sister Irene ask Frenchie to be their guide and help them determine what’s going on. Frenchie is initially reluctant but eventually agrees because he doesn’t want anything bad to happen to them. Plus, he’s attracted to Irene.
The three unlikely travel companions reach the abbey and Father Burke and Irene aren’t there very long before strange, eerie, and odd things begin happening. As they continue to investigate, the trio discover a malevolent force that takes the form of a demonic nun. They’re forced to confront, battle, and defeat the demon in order to stop the evil from spreading beyond the confines of the abbey.
The film effectively sets the mood with the use of dark forests, dimly lit hallways, haunted graveyards, and the appearance of the same demonic nun from the film, The Conjuring 2. Unfortunately, The Nun is a barely effective gothic horror prequel to The Conjuring films that settles for the quick jump scares while sacrificing character depth and substance.
Taissa Farmiga does a solid job of portraying young Sister Irene who reveals her visions to Father Burke and becomes both the target of the demon’s evil plans and its greatest threat. She conveys both the innocence and inner strength Irene has at this stage of her life.
Demian Bichir is a bit overdramatic in his performance as Father Burke, a holy man who’s still haunted by an exorcism he performed that went horribly wrong. His performance at times pushes the film from being a gothic horror movie to being a melodrama/horror film.
Jonas Bloquet delivers the best performance and adds some much-needed humor as Frenchie, the simple farmhand who gets caught up in the demon fighting at the abbey because of his fondness for Sister Irene and his desire to help her and Father Burke stop the demon from escaping the abbey. There’s a scene in the graveyard when the demon goes after Frenchie, and it plays out as both scary and very funny. Frenchie is basically the equivalent of a live-action “Shaggy” from Scooby-Doo.
The look and feel of the film is reminiscent of the old 1950s and ’60s British Hammer horror films more than The Conjuring movies. Where the film is weakest is in getting the audience to really engage with the characters.
The Nun is nothing more than a dark, demon-hunting quest with creaking doors, shadows slithering across walls, and the ever-obvious jump scare around the corner.
Directed By: Corin Hardy
MPAA Rating: R for terror, violence, and disturbing/bloody images
Running Time: 1 hour 36 minutes
Release Date: September 7, 2018