The Nun follows a priest and aspiring nun as they travel to a remote Romanian convent to investigate the apparent suicide of a nun and the dark happenings of the premises.
The Nun Review
The James Wan style of horror is by far my favorite wave ridden by mainstream horror today. Actually, it's the only wave of mainstream horror I remotely like. In general, mainstream horror is predictable and lazy. While the Wan universe has become somewhat predictable in style and execution, they feel anything but lazy. They're entertaining. They're scary. They usually have an engaging story.
As ghost directors have taken over for the swamped Wan, they have generally carried the various franchises and spin-offs with reasonable respect. Even the sequel to the spin-off Annabelle was a solid take with some memorable moments. The complaints are limited.
And then we get to The Nun, with this Wan Universe entry being ghost-directed by The Hallow's Corin Hardy. The Hallow remains my favorite Telluride Horror Show film, which speaks to the quality of that movie from its story and acting to effects and scares. I've been waiting patiently for another film from the director, and it comes in the form of another Wan Universe spin-off.
Based off of the evil entity from The Conjuring 2, The Nun is a prequel in the vein of the other spin-off franchise Annabelle. We've been introduced to these characters through the primary timeline of the Warrens, and now we're getting their backstories. And where I found the Annabelle films to be interesting and frightening, I felt The Nun was lacking despite all the steam it had heading into the theater.
The Nun is my least favorite entry into the Wan Universe thus far. That implies two things: It's not that bad compared to many other horror movies considering the high regards I hold in general for the other Wan films, but also that it wasn't as effective or well constructed as most other Wan films. Which is unfortunate, because I do love Hardy so.
Simply put, The Nun lacked the story structure and revelations that make the other films so great. Speaking to the Insidious franchise in particular, it does a great job of revealing motif of the villain through subtle visuals and behavior. There's a progression of the plot in all the films that drive the tension and engage the audience on an emotional or psychological level. For the most part, The Nun fails to do this. It's plot is jagged with little progression to any revelations. There isn't much of a linear path and it feels like a muddled haunting movie with no defined path or point. I mean, for crying out loud, the film opens with a massive plot hole that never got satisfied to my liking at any point in the runtime.
The visuals and scares, in general, also don't live up to the Wan standard. Revelations are either predictable, pointless or idiotic. There are at least three instances off the top of my head where I wanted to say out loud, "what was the point of that?"
I think perhaps the biggest disappointment was the film's waste of its setting inspired from the real-life location of Houska Castle. Houska Castle is just outside of Prague with dark legends galore associated with it. It was believed to be built to contain evil spewing forth from a portal to Hell at its center. The castle had no inherent location/military value, had no fortifications (except some inner designs that imply inward-facing fortifications), sat on no trade routes, and wasn't even occupied for quite a while after its construction. While The Nun covers and/or mentions some nods to this place, I feel that either the locale deserves more attention than being thrown on top of a prequel character, or that the film should have made the locale more purposeful to the story. It felt crudely smashed together to me.
I can still say I was more entertained by the film than, say, Slender Man, but that's a low bar. Knowing it was directed by Hardy just makes me want to watch The Hallow and knowing it's a prequel spin-off based around Valak the demon (the real entity is a cousin of Efrit's, I believe and he was also unimpressed) just made me want to watch The Conjuring 2. So, a movie that makes you just want to go watch other movies probably didn't succeed on what it set out to do.
Horror Qualifier: 9/10
Horror Quality: 6/10
Film Quality: 5/10