THE NUN

Hor­ror Fran­chise The Con­jur­ing is go­ing Gothic for pre­quel movie The Nun. ian Ber­ri­man speaks to direc­tor corin Hardy and star taissa farmiga

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Have you said your prayers? Maybe it’s time you did. The Con­jur­ing saga gets a spine-rat­tling pre­quel. Heaven pre­serve us.

Not of­ten can it be claimed, with any de­gree of con­vic­tion, that the fifth in a hor­ror fran­chise is bring­ing some­thing new to the ta­ble. But that gen­uinely does seem to be the case as The Con­jur­ing re­turns not with a bang but, ahem, with a wim­ple.

fans of this hor­ror uni­verse have al­ready met The Nun’s tit­u­lar nasty, in­tro­duced in 2016’s The Con­jur­ing 2. in the 1977-set film, para­nor­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tor ed War­ren was in­spired to paint a sin­is­ter nun from his night­mares. He and wife Lor­raine re­alised that this de­mon, named Valak, was or­ches­trat­ing the events of the in­fa­mous en­field Haunt­ing.

at that time, Lor­raine War­ren spec­u­lated that the de­mon had “taken a blas­phe­mous form to at­tack my faith”. But there’s clearly more to it than that, as this pre­quel turns the clock back a quar­ter of a cen­tury to 1952, send­ing Bon­nie aarons’s yel­low-eyed nun skulk­ing around the can­dlelit cor­ri­dors of a me­dieval abbey in the moun­tains of Ro­ma­nia. Brit corin Hardy, who pre­vi­ously wran­gled mon­strous faeries for 2015’s The Hal­low, is in the direc­tor’s chair.

“When i read the script, what stood out was

“When i read the script, what stood out was that the story was a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent,” Hardy tells SFX. “it was more of a mys­tery/ad­ven­ture film that had an in­ves­ti­ga­tion as­pect. nor­mally a fam­ily get haunted and the in­ves­ti­ga­tors turn up. With this, it was fol­low­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tors on the mis­sion, which felt new and fresh. So you have fa­ther Burke, a gruff, ex­pe­ri­enced ex­or­cist [Demián Bichir], and a nun in train­ing. they’re sent over to Ro­ma­nia, and team up with a farm­hand called frenchie, who dis­cov­ered a body at the abbey, and takes them to as­sess whether the grounds are still holy.”

nun so good

taissa farmiga plays the good-na­tured Sis­ter irene, a novi­tiate whom it ap­pears the Vat­i­can have good rea­son to task with this as­sign­ment.

“Sis­ter irene had a trou­bled child­hood, deal­ing with these vi­sions,” farmiga ex­plains. “Her parents didn’t know whether they were real or if she had some sort of men­tal dis­or­der, and the church took her in.”

So as well as in­ves­ti­gat­ing this mys­te­ri­ous sui­cide, the young novice is also in search of an­swers for her­self.

“She trusts in the Lord with ev­ery­thing she has,” farmiga says, “but there’s a small part of her that is a ques­tion mark. So part of it for her is that she’s try­ing to find clo­sure on the ques­tion that’s been plagu­ing her for her whole life: who sends these vi­sions? Why is she cho­sen to have these vi­sions? So while she’s al­ways quick to help, i think there might be a bit of a self­ish mo­ti­va­tion as well.”

Quick-minded read­ers will have twigged that taissa farmiga is the younger sis­ter of Vera farmiga, who plays Lor­raine War­ren in this se­ries. that’s not the re­sult of some grand de­sign; in­deed, by the sound of it, it led to a lit­tle hes­i­tancy on Hardy’s part. Well, you don’t want to look like you can’t think fur­ther than one fam­ily, do you?

“orig­i­nally we were look­ing at cast­ing an english ac­tress,” the direc­tor re­veals, “But taissa was so good i couldn’t not cast her. My con­cern was, if i cast her is it go­ing to be, ‘oh, it’s the easy op­tion’, but it wasn’t! She’s so right for the role, she pos­sesses some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary.”

for her part, farmiga – who was ac­tu­ally with her sis­ter when she was sent the lines for the au­di­tion by her agent – was a lit­tle sur­prised to win the part.

“Vera was like, ‘oh, that’s funny! You should go au­di­tion and see what hap­pens!’ to be hon­est, i thought, ‘oh, it’s go­ing to be weird if they cast me’, be­cause of the phys­i­cal ap­pear­ances.”

al­though it wasn’t a fac­tor in the fi­nal de­ci­sion, cast­ing an ac­tress who bears a strong re­sem­blance to another of the fran­chise’s leads does ob­vi­ously add an ex­tra di­men­sion.

“they look very sim­i­lar,” Hardy agrees, “and when you’re watch­ing the edit back you’re like, ‘oh my god!’ Whether there’s any con­nec­tions to any other films... you’ll have to wait and see.”

taissa is a lit­tle more forth­com­ing when asked if they played on the fam­ily re­sem­blance. “Y’know, i’m not sure what they’re go­ing to do in edit­ing! We filmed a few things, and we’ll have to see what makes it into the fi­nal cut.”

could Valak have latched onto the War­rens be­cause Sis­ter irene and Lor­raine War­ren are

sis­ter irene trusts in the lord, but there’s a small part of her that’s a ques­tion mark

re­lated? or is there some other link about to emerge? Per­haps there is ter­ri­tory here which could be fruit­fully ex­plored in a se­quel. for now, we can only spec­u­late.

What we do know for cer­tain is that fa­ther Burke and Sis­ter irene’s in­ves­tiga­tive quest pro­vided the direc­tor with a larger can­vas to paint on, one which lends the film a dif­fer­ent aes­thetic from the other en­tries.

“it’s not set in a town or a fam­ily’s house,” Hardy points out, “it’s set in the wilds of Ro­ma­nia in a huge, an­cient cas­tle, and other old build­ings, with lots of rich at­mos­phere – light and shad­ows.”

KEEP THE FAITH

of­ten with a film like this, the search for tax breaks can lead to one euro­pean coun­try stand­ing in for another, but The Nun was shot in the na­tion where it’s set, with Hardy’s team ex­plor­ing a land­scape that’s surely on the bucket list of ev­ery hor­ror direc­tor: the cen­tral Ro­ma­nian re­gion of tran­syl­va­nia.

“it was very ex­cit­ing!” the direc­tor en­thuses. “We filmed in the Peo­ple’s Palace [the Ro­ma­nian Parliament build­ing] – that was our Vat­i­can. and we utilised the jour­ney from Bucharest up to Hune­doara, about seven miles north into tran­syl­va­nia. We went through some in­cred­i­ble Ro­ma­nian vil­lages; it re­ally felt like step­ping back in time as you drove up, and you saw, y’know, young men sit­ting on the top of horse-drawn carts de­liv­er­ing milk.”

it must, we sug­gest, have felt like be­ing in­side an old Ham­mer film. Well, ex­cept that it

didn’t look like you were ac­tu­ally in a coun­try park in Buck­ing­hamshire…

“Yeah, def­i­nitely,” Hardy says. “Drac­ula is, for sure, an in­spi­ra­tion for this movie, and it did feel like we were all on that jour­ney – cre­at­ing ceme­ter­ies full of fog and cas­tles with heavy stone walls and can­dle­light. and cas­tle corvin, which is up in Hune­doara, is not that far from the cas­tle that Drac­ula was based on, cas­tle Bran.”

as well as Bram Stoker’s gothic vam­pire tale, the direc­tor also thinks the film has echoes of other clas­sics.

“it was very much the pro­duc­ers’ in­ten­tion to start go­ing off the beaten path a lit­tle more with this movie and make some­thing a bit more clas­si­cal,” Hardy ex­plains. “it was ap­par­ent when i read the script that there’s a nice

bal­ance of clas­sic hor­ror: The Ex­or­cist, The Name Of The Rose, Tem­ple Of Doom, Black

Nar­cis­sus... Some ital­ian hor­ror sprung to mind – Dario ar­gento, partly in how i wanted to trans­late it vis­ually. it felt like a bit of a mix­ing pot of those movies.”

for the film’s fe­male lead, filming at such im­pos­ing an­cient lo­ca­tions made it much eas­ier to place her­self in the right headspace.

“any­thing you think of when you think of tran­syl­va­nia, it’s true!” farmiga says. “it’s just as au­then­tic in per­son; that gothic, omi­nous feel. i mean, the peo­ple are a lit­tle bit hap­pier than you’d ex­pect! But it’s there. You go in these cas­tles and you can just breathe the his­tory. i think that’s so im­por­tant when you’re filming, be­cause you can’t fake that. it was funny: while we were filming at cas­tle corvin, they also had tourists com­ing through, so if i needed a break from the hor­ror i could step out­side and see ev­ery­body in their vi­sors and flip flops! But you step in the next room and feel you’re trans­ported back in time. that was a phe­nom­e­nal ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Hardy is con­fi­dent that the re­sult is a film that’ll ap­peal to gen­eral hor­ror fans as well as those who’ve caught ev­ery pre­vi­ous en­try.

“i love the kind of hor­ror which i grew up on in the ’70s and ’80s – grounded hor­ror, with a vis­ual flair and imag­i­na­tion be­hind it,” Hardy says. “if you’re a diehard Con­jur­ing fan then we def­i­nitely tried to make some­thing that’s a bit dif­fer­ent from what you’ve had be­fore. Hope­fully you’re go­ing to en­joy and em­brace that, but not feel too far from home at the same time, and have an ex­cit­ing, thrilling ride.”

Direc­tor Corin Hardy with young star Taissa Farmiga.

Filming took place in Cas­tle Corvin in Tran­syl­va­nia.

We would say look be­hind you, but we doubt it would help.

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