Hard Habit To Break
The sister is doing it for herself as we step back into the Conjuringverse.
released out now! 2018 | 15 | Blu-ray/dVd/download Director Corin Hardy Cast demián Bichir, taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet, Bonnie aarons
The fifth entry in what we should probably now be calling The Conjuring Cinematic Universe expands the boundaries of the franchise chronologically, geographically and visually, with broadly successful results.
The Conjuring 2 introduced Valak, a demonic force in the shape of a sinister nun. After the briefest of recaps (fear not, newbies – even that’s not really necessary), this new film journeys to Transylvania in 1952, as a priest (Demián Bichir) is sent by the Vatican to investigate whether an abbey which was recently the site of a nun’s mysterious suicide by hanging is still consecrated ground. As he can’t enter, it’s left to the young novitiate accompanying him, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), to speak to the sisters inside…
The film’s greatest strength is undoubtedly the location shooting in Romania, utilising buildings such as the 15th century Corvin Castle. Though sound stage interiors were built too, these imposing locations are hugely atmospheric, and together with the Transylvanian landscapes create a strong sense of place. It’s a far cry from all those Hammer productions that sent Dr Van Helsing’s stagecoach dashing through Black Park in Buckinghamshire, to arrive on a familiar Bray Studios backlot.
Hammer fans are likely to appreciate the film’s gothic ambience (carpets of mist, candles blazing en masse, forests of crooked crucifixes) – though they might not approve of the fact that it makes just as much use of rather rote jump scares. More than the British studio’s work, though, The Nun brings to mind Italian horror cinema. The central notion of a gateway to Hell is something of a staple of the genre, and the way the abbey’s interiors are bathed in sinister red light echoes the work of Mario Bava and Dario Argento.
Visually, it’s very much a success, and Taissa Farmiga (younger sister of The Conjuring’s paranormal investigator Lorraine Warren herself, Vera Farmiga – though the film makes nothing of the strong family resemblance, which seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity) proves luminous as the saucer-eyed young novice. But there isn’t a great deal of depth to the characters. And despite a third-act rug-pull, Annabelle writer Gary Dauberman’s script has a rather videogame-y “quiz the locals, collect the magical artefact, defeat the end-of-level boss” feel to it. And the ultimate solution to the question, “How do you solve a problem like Valak?” may inspire a derisive snort...
Extras Three short featurettes (totalling 15 minutes) focus on the character of Valak, the timeline of the Conjuring series (basically an ad for the Blu-ray range) and filming in Romania. The latter, narrated with grandiloquence by director Corin Hardy, is the most interesting, detailing the key locations used. You also get seven deleted/extended scenes (12 minutes). For once, one of these trims seems highly questionable: a chunk of exposition which explains how Sister Irene learns the purpose of a vital key, its omission created a headscratching ellipsis in the finished film… Ian Berriman
The tombs in the tomb set have death masks cast from the faces of the director, writer, DoP, first AD and exec producer.
When striding on into the darkness is still preferable to turning around.