Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Review: "The Nun" is a forgettable spin-off within the Conjuring Universe

The Nun Review

So far, I've enjoyed "The Conjuring" movies. They feel like old-school haunted house movies, and I personally will take a horror movie full of genuine terror and atmosphere before I take a horror movie with unlikable teenagers dying in strange ways. "The Conjuring" movies are full of mood, and they get us with some good "boo scares" too, which is also increasingly difficult to pull off. There is some striking imagery in both movies and their stories let the audience care about the characters, which only increases the tension. I wish I could say the same about the spin-offs they are putting together for their shared universe. But I can't. The "Annabelle" movies are hit or miss, and I can't say that I've loved that mini-franchise. I can say with ease that "The Nun" is off to a not-so-good start.

I can forgive some things about "The Nun." I like that they are trying for the same spooky atmosphere that has defined "The Conjuring." You can tell that they are really trying to make these movies count, and I can appreciate that. The film opens with two nuns investigating an old Catholic relic (of course its Catholic, Catholics are always fighting the forces of evil in these movies.) They are attacked by an unseen force. I will admit that this introduction is well staged, and great hook and set-up for the film. There is some shocking unease that builds throughout the entire scene and I will admit that I got uncomfortable watching it.

Sadly, the movie loses all of its momentum after that wicked opening. We meet Sister Irene (played by Taissa Farmiga, whose older sister Vera plays Lorraine Warren in the Conjuring movies) and she is asked to assist Father Burke (Demian Bichir) in his investigation in the incident with the two nuns that begins the film. As you may be able to figure out, things get dark and strange in their investigation and they eventually encounter Valak from "The Conjuring 2." Bichir and Taissa Farmiga are both incredible actors, and I've enjoyed much of their work. They are working overtime to make this movie count.

The movie gets its mood down, and its got good actors leading the way. With all due respect, Bonnie Aarons is one of the most terrifying looking people working in Hollywood right now. All of this effort is restricted to a film that features cheesy special effects scene. There is not another good scare the whole movie, nothing that touches the frightening beginning. What surprised me the most is just dull the rest of the movie is. The pacing is off, and even though James Wan didn't direct this one, I know he is a writer and producer on this. He's been so good with pacing with the Conjuring movies that I thought it would be more of the same with this spin-off. But the movement of the story is off, I felt myself getting sleepy watching it. Not the feeling I want watching a horror movie.

The Conjuring Universe has lots going for it, and I wish if they just kept all of their energy on the Conjuring specific movies, they would see their profits soar. But they are branching out. While that is a great possible business decision, its usually not great creatively. "The Nun" feels like easy money, and if that wasn't the case then its hard to see how its not.


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