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The Nun is the fifth film in The Conjuring universe, taking place before the events of the mainline story which involves the Warren’s. The film focuses on the origins of the titular Nun, the demonic entity Valek who is the antagonistic force in the second Conjuring film.
The film stars Demian Bichir, Jonas Bloquet, and Taissa Farmiga (who is the younger sister of Vera Farmiga in the central Conguring story line). As their characters travel to an ancient abbey in rural Romania to investigate the death of a nun, supernatural occurrences start to happen and they try to send the demon back to hell. This being a prequel, we know that this does not exactly work out.
The film has a strong start, setting a creepy mood and a tense atmosphere. However, as the film carried on the more this atmosphere was broken to the point that the film, when it ended, was a different one to the one that started.
It has the hallmarks of the mainline Conjuring films with the deceptive panning shots that so well characterizes James Wan’s style of directing horror. That being said, the hallmarks never develop into anything more and remains a shallow imitation of his style. In addition when there are clips of The Conjuring in this film, you get the feeling that you would much rather watch a superior film to the one you are watching right now instead.
The once constant performance in the film comes from Demian Bichir, where it looks like he is trying his best to work with the material that has been given to him. Taissa Farmiga has moments where she shines, though was far too inconsistent to fit into the entirety of the film. Jonas Bloquet’s character has the distinct feeling that he was supposed to be in a completely different film, or rather a Conjuring film that has a comedic take rather than a horror take. As a result, I found myself laughing more than feeling any dread for the characters.
In addition to humor, frustration was added to the mixture of feelings as the characters kept making the exact same mistake over and over again, where they hear or see something and they go towards it rather than away from it. I have nothing against this mode of transmitting horror. The fact that they used the same mode five or six times that I can count made me care less about the characters to the point where I was thinking that they deserved every bad thing that was going to happen to them.
The film tries its best to rely on the power of the terror and horror of the film to compensate for a story that was so bare bones that I am sure it made the executives over at EA blush. By the end of the film, I found none of the characters interesting enough to even remember their names, and thinking all of the story could have probably been resolved in half an hour rather than an hour and a half long film.
Jonas Bloquet’s character was fascinating to watch in the film because on one hand he was doing what I always imagine doing in horror films, minus going towards the scary thing in the dark rather than against it, while pulling it off with so much comedy that whatever tension was present is completely destroyed, not for the scene, for the whole film, and this happens three times in extremely, potentially tense moments. In an indirect way, I ended up being entertained watching this character stumble his way through the film while Demian Bichir was acting with a certain amount of gravitas.
I would be lying if I said that there were no moments of scares at all, as I said the opening I felt was incredibly strong; however by the time the credits rolled I realized that I had spent more time laughing with the audience rather than being somewhat tense with the audience. That being said, as a horror film it fails.
Despite my issues with the film, I was glad to have seen it in the cinema with the crowd I did. It was a packed auditorium, the crowd was incredibly energetic, and the startled screams of one of the audience members made the auditorium as a collective laugh. At least someone was feeling the full effect of the film as is intended.
Ultimately this is a film that I would recommend skipping in the cinema. If you are a Conjuring completionist I would recommend watching it at home when it becomes available on Netflix or the like as it is a massive step down from both The Conjuring 2 and Annabelle Creation.