Spin-off full of bad habits
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