Spin-off full of bad habits

Dumfries & Galloway Standard - - THE TICKET -

The Nun (15)

Fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of the Annabelle flicks, The Nun is the sec­ond spin-off from The Con­jur­ing se­ries – and this time we’re in pre­quel ter­ri­tory.

Sis­ter Irene (Taissa Farmiga) and priest Fa­ther Burke (Demián Bichir) are sent to Ro­ma­nia by the Vat­i­can to in­ves­ti­gate the death of a young nun and con­front the de­monic Valak (Bon­nie Aarons).

Valak was creep­ily first in­tro­duced in The Con­jur­ing 2 be­fore a fur­ther cameo in the Annabelle se­quel and is the best thing about her big break­out solo out­ing.

In fact, when Aarons’ fright­en­ing cre­ation isn’t on screen you’re more likely to be look­ing at your watch than peek­ing ner­vously through your fin­gers.

Which is a real shame given the film was writ­ten by It re­boot scribe Gary Dauber­man and Saw and Con­jur­ing se­ries helmer James Wan.

Throw in English di­rec­tor Corin Hardy get­ting back be­hind the cam­era to fol­low up im­pres­sive de­but fright flick The Hal­low and you’d think the tools were all in place to con­struct a su­per slice of hor­ror.

Alas not as this spin-off gets bogged down with gar­gan­tuan di­a­logue-drops, char­ac­ters who are weeks be­hind the au­di­ence in suss­ing out what’s go­ing on and bizarre at­tempts to in­ject un­nec­es­sary hu­mour.

Farmiga can’t match her sis­ter Vera’s work in The Con­jur­ing movies – or even her own per­for­mances in TV’s Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story – as the script doesn’t give her much to work with beyond get­ting spooked and look­ing trou­bled.

Bichir fares slightly bet­ter as he gives his part plenty of pas­sion, even if Burke comes across as an in­fe­rior ver­sion of The Exorcist’s Fa­ther Kar­ras.

The Nun works best when Hardy’s cam­era lingers over darkly lit cor­ri­dors and open spaces; we know Valak is com­ing, but Hardy clev­erly still man­ages to catch us out once or twice with pitch-per­fect jump scares.

Much like the Ir­ish for­est he utilised in The Hal­low, Hardy gets a lot out of his cen­tral lo­ca­tion; the Carta Monastery is like a clas­sic haunted house on a grand scale, with whis­pers in the air, shad­ows lit by gaslight and omi­nous, cold brick work.

Un­for­tu­nately, Hardy doesn’t show such a sure hand when bom­bard­ing us with a se­ries of se­quences steeped in hor­ror movie folk­lore; this is def­i­nitely a case where less would’ve been bet­ter than more.

Never is this bet­ter ex­em­pli­fied than with the film’s over-the-top cli­max which ven­tures into ac­tion-ad­ven­ture mode more be­fit­ting the like of Van Hels­ing.

Surely some­where dur­ing The Nun’s de­vel­op­men­tal process a slow-burn, ten­sion­driven ghost story was on the ta­ble?

Sadly, de­spite a ter­ri­fy­ing an­tag­o­nist and be­hind-the-cam­era trio in­grained in hor­ror, that is jet­ti­soned in favour of fun­house-style mad­ness.

She’s be­hind you! Farmiga en­dures a scary time in The Nun

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