Sisters of murky… ★★☆☆☆ OUT NOW
The Conjuring cinematic universe continues to pick up bad habits.
CERTIFICATE 15 DIRECTOR Corin Hardy STARRING Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Bonnie Aarons, Jonas Bloquet SCREENPLAY Gary Dauberman DISTRIBUTOR Warner Bros RUNNING TIME 96 mins
Outside of Marvel, the spook-iverse built around James Wan’s two Conjuring films and demon-doll offspring Annabelle is one of the few ‘expanded universes’ in functioning shape right now. Yet acolytes’ faith might dip with this rickety, 1952-set prequel devoted to Valak (Bonnie Aarons), the nun-more-nasty demon who haunted The Conjuring 2 and Annabelle: Creation.
Director Corin Hardy milks a candlelit abbey for shivery dread. But he’s working from an exposition-heavy script with a flighty tone and a flimsy plot, wherein exorcist Father Burke (Demián Bichir), novitiate Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) and local rogue Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet) visit the troubled nun-base to check how holy it is. Clue: not very.
Though character foibles (guilt, naïvety, lust) are seeded, these are sidelined as each player gets spooked in turn by demonic iconography. Wonky crucifixes, headless Jesuses, snake-spewing devil kids – they’re all here, hoary as hell. As the inevitable Valak face-off dominates a cacophonous climax, Frenchie’s one-liners and the screeching scares seem locked in conflict over who can creak loudest. The slam-bang silliness pales beside 2018’s horror high-rankers.
The Nun’s rackety scares and hackneyed horrors groan badly. Only the moody, menacing setting inspires belief.