The Nun review: Thwarted by ineffectual jump-scare tactics

Most of the jokes are so dreary that they fizzle out even before the punchline ends

the-nun The Nun poster

At a time when the horror genre is on an upward swing, with films that are soul-rattling and gut-churning, a spin-off of The Conjuring franchise—mostly based on the theories of exorcism—might not be that enticing. I did not watch The Nun with high expectations, but the film failed to live up to even that.

Like the Marvel Universe, The Conjuring may soon have a slew of movies. But, if it keeps repeating formulae that are tiresome, unnecessarily lengthy, and not at all scary, the audience may soon run out of patience. The Nun, a prequel to The Conjuring 2, creates a backstory for Valak, the demonic nun. It takes us back to the early-1950s Romania, where Father Burke (Demián Bichir) from the Vatican and the yet-to-take-her-vows Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) embark on a journey to investigate the suicide of a nun at a monastery.

Joining them in their endeavour is Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), a local from the village who insists that he is a French-Canadian at least thrice in the movie. That, and many of his other lines, is an effort to introduce humour amid the jump scares and the haunting space that the film creates. Alas, most of the jokes are so dreary that they fizzle out even before the punchline ends.

The parts that should have been scary are so irrational that it feels staged, and you lose interest before it even builds up. Irene was sent along with Burke because of her supposed ties to the region. But no connection is established.

In another instance, Burke is woken up in the middle of the night by eerie movements and noises only to follow the spirit of a young boy that he had exorcised years ago. No connection is established for the boy’s demon being present there, or having any relations with Valak, apart from narration by Burke himself, minutes before. The spirit pushes him into a coffin, which could have suffocated him to death had it not been for the bell attached to it. The story probably references the belief that living persons were buried during the cholera epidemic, one of the earliest proofs of it being the 1854-painting The Premature Burial by Antoine Joseph Wiertz.

The film, like most of The Conjuring films, has a cameo of the character based on Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), the real-life paranormal investigators associated with the Amityville case.

While we don’t believe that it could be real, we believe that with this set-up of the film, there was ample scope to play with history and belief systems that have come down the ages. But, it is failed by below-par writing, and Corin Hardy’s inconsistent direction.

The Nun

Cast: Demian Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet

Director: Corin Hardy

Rating: 1.5/5