Anyone who has seen The Conjuring 2 would agree that part of the sequel’s (financial) success was due to the creepy appearance of Valak. Now, the fan-favourite demonic nun is finally getting her own spin-off, much like the Annabelle doll from the eponymous 2014 movie and last year’s prequel.
In The Nun, the story takes place way back in 1952 Romania where Father Burke (Demian Bichir) is assigned by the Vatican to investigate the mysterious suicide of a young nun in a secluded abbey. With the help of a novice, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) and the villager (Jonas Bloquet) who found the body in the first place, they soon discover that there’s a sinister force lurked deep inside the abbey.
Billed as “the darkest chapter in The Conjuring universe”, The Nun isn’t kidding about being dark — both figuratively and literally, of course. Corin Hardy, whose previous directing credit includes The Hallow in 2015, does a decent job in utilising sound, darkness and strategically-placed camerawork to evoke a foreboding sense of dread and tension. He doesn’t succeed entirely since some of them tends to feel clichéd or predictable while at other times, certain scenes look as if they are lifted straight from a horror video game’s playbook. Not to mention he also relies heavily on jump scares, the same old make-or-break formula that has been the series’ trademark since the first Conjuring movie in 2013.
As for the story, it’s a pity to see Gary Dauberman’s (Annabelle, Annabelle: Creation) script is reduced to a strictly by-the-numbers horror formula. Instead of delving deeper into Valak’s backstory, what we have here is a fast-paced (it’s only 95 minutes long!), gothic horror movie seemingly designed for today’s generation with short attention spans. If you are expecting a dark, psychological horror in the vein of an old-school ’70s gothic slow-burn shocker or even Guillermo del Toro-style of filmmaking, this movie is definitely not for you.
Both Demian Bichir and Taissa Farmiga (Vera’s younger sister) are both adequate enough in their otherwise underwritten roles as Father Burke and Sister Irene respectively. Jonas Bloquet brings a welcome respite and comic relief as Frenchie, who somehow helps lighten up the otherwise bleak and pessimistic tone of the movie.