Monday, 10 September 2018

Review: The Nun

The Nun
Cert: 15 / 96 mins / Dir. Corin Hardy / Trailer

I've got a spreadsheet where I list all the films I've watched*1, link to reviews, categorise them by score, BBFC rating, genre etc. One of those genres available in the dropdown is 'True Story'. Corin Hardy's The Nun opens with a caption-card reading "The following occurred in Romania, 1952". Now, The Nun wasn't categorised in my spreadsheet as 'True Story' before I sat down in screen 5, and it sure as fuck isn't afterward, either. If anything, an early sequence in which our eponymous villain glides slowly down a corridor sees a crucifix on the wall slowly turning upside down the closer to it she gets. As The Nun™ draws parallel to the now-inverted cross, it bursts into flames, and I realised these particular real events have apparently been screenwritten by a 17yr old Cradle Of Filth fan…

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Nun is the fifth movie in the Conjuring universe. It is the very definition of A Studio Horror, in which an ancient demon is summoned into the body of a middle-aged woman in an Eastern European convent, and is so furious at this that it then goes a bit mad and kills pretty much everyone at every opportunity. For obvious reasons the Vatican isn't too happy at the ruckus being caused, so they send Father Burke (Demián Bichir) to investigate with a collection of suitcases, accompanied for reasons which really aren't made clear by prospective good-nun Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga*2). Hell on.

It's the kind of film where a French-Canadian farmer living in Romania answers the door to a pair of strangers by speaking in English. The range of accents here is astounding.

The film's basically fine if that's what you're into. But as is so often the case, you'd have to be pretty new to the genre to be wrapped up in anything it has to say. At this point in the ongoing Conjuring saga, the storyline itself is almost completely linear. But wearing the continuity badge upfront like a press-pass, at least that's expected. If anything, I'd much rather have this movie be middling as part of a series than standing alone thinking it's better than it is. The Nun is well enough assembled, but in a way that suggests no-one involved believed they were making something unique, so just didn't try. The wardrobe and set-dressing are nothing less than meticulous, yet I still didn't believe for a single frame that this was taking place 66 years ago*3.

Oh, and when the power is pulled from a radio, the music will just cease, it doesn't drop in speed and pitch like a turntable. Not even in 1952. Although I'm also aware that nothing else in that particular sequence makes sense either.

The Conjuring series has been up and down like a rollercoaster, but this is an absolute ghost train of a movie. With dusty tombs, papal crisis meetings, an Act II backstory exposition reel and more jump-scares you can throw a crucifix at, it's more a tribute to the genre than a pastiche, but still made with a knowing glint in its eye. And with its motifs of guilt and possession in a Romanian setting, The Nun owes as much to Bram Stoker as it does William Friedkin.

Oh, and when farmer Terry is walking around the catacombs with the flaming torch in the film's crescendo? The audience can see where the inbuilt gas jets are, mate.

Still, the bits with the pentacles made me laugh. I mean out loud*4.

The Nun is much like the cave on Dagobah.
"What's in there?"
"Only what you take with you."

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Well let's take a wild guess, shall we?

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
Well, not unless you're a hardened fan of the series.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Not unless you're a hardened fan of the series.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It's not.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
Probably not.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Definitely not.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Rogue One Dr. Evazan's in this.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Not that regular readers will be surprised by this, obviously [ BACK ]

*2 And for the record, Taissa Farmiga is a very capable and competent central performer here (given the state of the screenplay), who is the younger sister of Conjuring 1 & 2 star Vera Farmiga, and who looks and acts very much like Vera Farmiga, and whose point in the story's timeline suggests that her character could just be a younger version of the character played by Vera Farmiga, and whose experiences in the film point towards a third-act reveal surprising approximately no-one that 'hey this is really Lorraine from the Conjuring films!', especially since Vera Farmiga appears in the film's bookend scenes, but then that doesn't happen and you have to wonder why the actual fuck Taissa would be cast if the family resemblance wasn't going to be a thing because otherwise it's just really distracting. [ BACK ]

*3 While watching The Nun, It crossed my mind (because it's the sort of film which allows the viewer's train of thought to wander well off the tracks) that I have no problem believing in Santa Claus when I'm watching a great Christmas movie. Just between the opening titles and closing credits, obviously, and just as a dramatic conceit to tell the story. So why am I so cynical when it comes to supernatural horror? Why can't I just switch off and be 'in the moment'? I suspect it's something to do with caption cards claiming some sort of documentary heritage, but I'm snarky at movies that don't have these, too. Answers on a postcard, please. [ BACK ]

*4 No real code-breaking in this, since I was sat in my local's massive screen 5 on my own for the entire movie. Which I didn't mind at all, as you can imagine. That said, the only worry I had was that I'd look round at one point and there'd be someone dressed as a nun sitting four about seats away. Anyway, that didn't happen. Although if I ran a cinema, I'd make sure one of my staff members was doing that with every screening. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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