By which we mean it’s yet another spin-off of a movie that was never exactly frightening or particularly inventive to begin with, based on the absolute drivel spouted by the self-proclaimed “paranormal investigators” Ed and Lorraine Warren, who most famously invented the so - called Amityville hauntings.
And I reckon good luck to them. A fraudulent sheen of “based on a true story” has been a decent enough way to flog a horror ever since the genre was invented. Bram Stoker’s Dracula was written as a series of journal and diary entries to achieve exactly the same effect.
And to this day there’s still a pretty decent cottage industry at Hanging Rock dedicated to pleasing the numpties who still haven’t got the memo that Picnic at Hanging Rock was a work of fiction.
The Nun enters the family as a loose prequel to The Conjuring 2. That film spent an unfeasible amount of its running-time introducing a corps of potential baddies via a series of paintings hanging on the walls of the Warren’s Connecticut home. The spookiest of them by far was a shadowy figure in a black habit with glowing green eyes and a serious need of some cosmetic dental surgery.
According to this film, she is actually the demon Valak inhabiting the body of some unfortunate sister of a Romanian monastery with the requisite portal to hell in the basement. Arriving on the scene in 1952 are a Spanish priest (Demian Bechir), a young novitiate (I have absolutely no idea why, either, but she is played by Vera Farmiga’s kid sister Taissa) and a hunky local (Jonas Bloquet) hired to drive them there in his horse and cart.
What follows is a bog-standard iteration of what passes for a horror movie these days. There’s a series of set-pieces – some effective, some less so – all of which culminate with a “boo” moment, until the 90-minute mark is reached and the film staggers across the finish line with the cast bloodied but mostly intact and a clear set up for a sequel clunkily dropped in.
The bulk of The Nun is taken up by the apparent killings of the dozen or so sisters who already live at the monastery, who are variously burnt, blown up or thrown off things in a series of oddly comic moments that had me scribbling “it’s a nun-pocalypse” in my dog-eared notebook.
As always with this franchise, the production values, camera work, sound design and especially the art direction, are all absolutely excellent.
I think this attention to craft and detail is the actual secret of the series’ success. The gloss of film-making quality effectively papers over some gaping chasms of credibility and a storyline that has more holes than plot. Also, the three lead performances are all fine, with Bloquet especially bringing some much needed comic timing to the party.
The Nun, like most of its predecessors is an efficient, unambitious and crowd-pleasing movie. With at least two more entries in the franchise still to come, I guess we can at least take heart from that.
- Graeme Tuckett