On the one hand, I get the appeal of creating a shared universe out of The Conjuring. While telling its particular story, the film hinted at so many stories set prior to that film’s events. Outside of The Conjuring 2, though, the results haven’t lived up to that initial hint of potential. Annabelle was an obvious choice, considering the doll’s use in the first film, but that film was a disaster; Annabelle: Creation was a marked improvement, but neither film managed to dig into the characterization that helped sell the Conjuring films. The latest film in this franchise, The Nun, doesn’t fall quite as flat as Annabelle, but there’s little about the film to make it worth existing.
In 1952, Father Burke (Demián Bechir) and nun-in-training Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) are sent by the Vatican to investigate the suicide of a nun in Romania. Upon arrival, they learn from Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), the local townsman who discovered the body, that the castle and convent where he discovered the body is considered cursed by those in the town. As Father Burke and Sister Irene begin to explore the grounds, they find a burgeoning evil amidst the group of secretive nuns.
For all its faults, and there are certainly plenty here, The Nun does have some redeeming qualities. Bechir and Farmiga are talented actors, and they attempt to bring something to their one-dimensional characters. Director Corin Hardy also is able to craft a few scenes that, while not necessarily frightening, are a bit more effective than we’ve seen so far in the spinoffs in this franchise. Composer Abel Korzeniowski’s score has a creepy, distinctive flair at times. And the film finds a way to tie into The Conjuring which was surprising and effective.
None of this, though, is enough to cover the fact that this 96-minute film feels stitched together, a series of jump scares and mood-setting moments that toy with religious iconography in an effort to rattle audiences. In its best films – the main films in the series – the horror is aided by a concerted effort to invest in its characters. The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 run significantly longer, but they feel worth it because we get to know the Warrens and the people they help. With these spinoffs, we’re introduced to new characters whose relevance to the films begins and ends with the fact that they’re interacting with the titular characters. The Nun, like its predecessors, is ultimately a cash-grab.