Updated: Jul 19, 2021
The 252nd review overall!
It’s Big Board Friday here in Earth’s Greatest City, so my day is a lot easier than usual. With less stuff for me to do it’s easier to give in to temptation in the form of Little Caesars. Now that my stomach is content I think it’s time to talk about...
The Nun (2018). HBO Go.
I’m starting to think the Conjuring movies are just testers to see how they can spin off from the franchise. We had Annabelle, now The Nun and coming next year, we’ll have the Crooked Man. I’m iffy about that last one, he was my favorite part of Conjuring 2. His appearance was so frightening because it was so shocking, will it still hold up when he’s the baddie of a 90-minute movie? Who knows. But yeah, this movie...
The Nun does not waste time. It has a really effective opening. You’re following two nuns down a dark foggy corridor where you know danger is lurking behind every corner. They’re looking for something, but you’re not sure what. One of the nuns opens a door and walks into the darkness, but not before telling her counterpart she “knows what to do” if she doesn’t make it. Naturally, she doesn’t make it that reveal sets off a very chilling and extremely creepy chase that ends in a suicide. You’re given no context, just plopped into the middle of their expedition minutes before it goes to hell, literally. It sets the mood perfectly.This movie takes place in the 1950’s, well before you met Valak in part two. A priest who refers to himself as a “Miracle Hunter” is sent with a nun in training, who has had visions in the past, to the castle in Romania where the nun took her life. The Vatican sends them after the man, known as “Frenchie” (that’s his nickname) found her dangling while he was dropping off supplies in a pretty disturbing scene. The Vatican wants to know if the ground is holy still or has been defiled. From there, “Frenchie” takes the two to the castle, then peaces out, but not before he has a demonic encounter, which has a pretty funny ending, really endearing me to the character.
If you’ve seen a Conjuring movie, or one of its off shoots, you don’t need too much set up. Bad things are happening, crew investigates, shit hits the fan. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel or do anything different because it doesn’t have to. The formula works and the nun demon, especially bathed in shadow and fog is a very terrifying thing to look at. What makes this movie stand out are the three leads. Frenchie, Father Burke and Sister Irene. They play their roles very role and there’s good chemistry between them. You actively root for them and want to see them survive, it’s rare in a horror movie when you legitimately don’t want bad things to happen to any of your characters.
I’ll start with the negatives first. It over-relies on two main things. The first, jump scares. There are good scenes that build up the suspense, but for the most part, you’re treated to a close up of someone’s face, followed by a music screech when they turn around to see the demon standing right behind them. Full disclosure, they made me jump every time. But even so, you don’t get points for them because jump scares are easy and in this movie, they weren’t that necessary. It’s scary enough on its own that it doesn’t need to go for the low hanging fruit. The other thing it relied too heavily on was every single character was so eager to investigate every single noise. They even, inexplicably, manage to split up while walking down a dark basement filled with corridors. How they managed to lose Frenchie, the only one with a light, a big ass torch by the way, had me scratching my head.
Those are my only quibbles with this movie, because I really enjoyed it. I already alluded to how much I liked the characters and there’s a bit of a twist that’s telegraphed pretty early, and a bit cliche, but I loved it. The more I reflect on it and what that means for the party involved, it’s pretty cool and adds another layer to the story. I went to the Wikipedia article for the movie and they have some reviews of the movie done by actual nuns. It’s really interesting to get their perspective and see what the movie got right and what it did not, although some are a bit more critical than others.
The setting is great too. The abbey they spend their time just looks old and full of painful memories. There are crosses everywhere. Inside, outside, the cemetery is nothing but crosses as far as the eye can see. Frenchie at one point says something to the effect he thinks they were put there to keep evil out, but he believes it’s kept the evil inside. It’s a chilling quote, made even more effective by the sheer number of crosses in the background. And with those crosses there’s plenty of opportunity to do that scary image the series loves where the crosses slowly start to upside down.
I enjoy the Conjuring universe, and this one ties into the main series more than the Annabelle ones do, I can’t explain why it makes me happy and sad at the same time, because it gives away a pretty big reveal. As for the big question you ask for any horror movie, is it scary? Yes. It goes to the jump scare and “let’s go check out that noise in the haunted area alone” well a few times too many. But it still has some really chilling moments and some of them are actually subtle, which is something this series isn’t known for. Me, being a Catholic, movies about exorcisms or demons carry a little extra weight on me and they scare me easier than most. But still, it’s a solid movie, great leads, spooky atmosphere, a cool little twist and a terrifying antagonist. It’s not as good as the original Conjuring, which I still hold up as the scariest movie I’ve watched since I started these reviews, and one of the scariest I can remember watching. But if you’re looking for something to scare you, this will scratch that itch.