Release Date(s)2018 (December 4, 2018)
Studio(s)New Line Cinema/Warner Bros. (Warner Home Video)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B-
A continuation of The Conjuring franchise that began in 2013, The Nun has novitiate nun Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) sent to a Romanian monastery with Father Burke (Demian Bichir) to investigate the suicide of another nun on holy ground. Assisted by French Canadian Maurice (Jonas Bloquet), they eventually discover that the events that led to the nun’s death have supernatural origins.
Set in 1952, the film has a man buried alive, demonic mirror reflections, shadows with a life of their own, a radio that turns itself on, a nightgown-clad young woman walking through a cemetery, a young boy regurgitating a snake, a gravity-defying rosary bead, stigmata, upside-down crosses, and creepy candle-lit corridors. What it lacks is a decent plot. It starts out as a mystery but once Sister Irene and Father Burke arrive in Romania, we get the traditional playbook of low-budget horror, with lots of suspenseful sequences and loud music creating a “Boo” effect. There’s little in the way of genuine, hair-raising terror here.
Dialogue is filled with obvious observations and raises more questions than it answers. By the time a character says the “abbey has a long history, not all of it good,” we have long reached that conclusion. Horror films need brisk pacing to maximize their effect. The Nun inches along, with padded stretches in which little happens to advance what story there is. At the end, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga), the parapsychologists from The Conjuring, appear briefly, and a couple of final close-ups indicate that the filmmakers plan to continue the formula ad infinitum. The one plus for the movie is the location filming in Romania.
Director Corin Hardy fails to deliver real scares. Instead, he pours on the blood and gore, more to disgust than terrify. Bloquet has a few funny lines that provide welcome comic relief in this dark tale. Taissa Farmiga never appears sufficiently terrified by the demonic mayhem occurring around her, going through the motions with doe-eyed innocence. Bichir tries to convey brooding determination to solve the mystery, but comes off as bland.
By far the best performance in the film is from Bonnie Aarons, who plays the demon nun. With ghastly make-up and a black habit that blends into darkness, she pops up unexpectedly, providing jump shocks. Often, when the camera pans, there she is, her huge black eyes staring and her sharp teeth bared. She is the only genuinely frightening ingredient in the movie and director Hardy doesn’t exploit her enough.
The Nun contains both the Blu-ray and DVD along with a Digital Copy. Video resolution is 1080p. Aspect ratio is 2.39:1. Due to the somber nature of the story, photography is dark, with entire sections of the frame totally black so that “things” can pop out suddenly. The dark shots are inconsistent, with some quite effective and others poorly detailed. Night scenes have a bluish hue. There is excessive graininess on night-time car interiors. A beautifully composed shot early in the film shows streams of sunlight through trees spilling onto a country road.
There are two audio options, English Dolby Atmos True Definition and 5.1 DTS-HD, which can be selected by going into the menu. Because sound effects and loud music are the source of most of the “jump” moments, care has been taken to get these right. On the Atmos track, dialogue is crisp and there’s tremendous bass in the frightening scenes. There’s a good balance between dialogue and ambient sound, especially in the early scenes, in which wind, echoes in the large abbey, and footsteps add nice atmospheric touches. English, Spanish, and French optional subtitles are available.
Bonus features include 3 featurettes and deleted scenes.
A New Horror Icon – Writer James Wan talks about his fondness for “classic gothic horror.” Actress Bonnie Aarons comments that people are afraid of religious figures because they are closer to God. Make-up artist Eleanor Sabaduque explains how her team created the look of the demon nun.
The Conjuring Chronology – Inspired by the Marvel universe, whose characters relate to one another, James Wan thought something similar could be done with horror films. Of the five films in The Conjuring franchise, The Nun takes place in the earliest time period – 1952. Because of the popularity of the demon nun character introduced in The Conjuring 2, the character’s role was expanded for The Nun.
Gruesome Planet – Director Corin Hardy discusses the numerous locations in Romania used in the film, noting the gothic spires, rugged countryside, and subterranean passages. The castles used in the film date back to the 15th century. Hardy considers the country an important cast member, noting “we couldn’t have made it without her.”
Deleted Scenes – Burke hears the boy’s confession; Burke visits Irene; Irene leaves the convent; Burke and Irene discuss the Duke’s books, then enter the abbey; Burke prays; Irene wakes in her room, sees the rosary nun, and explores corridors; Sister Christian and others tell Irene the backstory of the Duke, the Abbey, and the Nun; and Burke and Irene discuss having faith.
– Dennis Seuling