Hard Habit To Break

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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.

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