Bob Foster

THE NUN, gets into the habit of scaring viewers [REVIEW]

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THE NUN

WRITTEN BY GARY DAUBERMAN

DIRECTED BY: COLIN HARDY

STARRING: TAISSA FARMIGA, BONNIE AARONS, DAMION BICHIR

PRODUCTION COMPANIES: ATOMIC MONSTER, NEW LINE CINEMAS

DISTRIBUTED BY: NEW LINE/WB

RELEASE DATE SEPTEMBER 7, 2018

RUNNING TIME 98 MINUTES

RATED R FOR TERROR, VIOLENCE, AND DISTURBING/BLOODY IMAGES

There is a sequence about thirty-five minutes into The Nun that exemplifies the whole of the film. Following a noise, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga, “American Horror Story”, sister of Conjuring star Vera Farmiga) enters a ruined chapel. There she finds, well I won’t spoil the contents of the scene itself, a creepy set up. Some disturbing imagery and an long take that exudes dread. As it reaches the top of the dread… BOO! A loud noise and Valek (the demon nun also featured in Conjuring 2) hisses at the camera and Sister Irene. The tension deflated by the cheap shock.

That’s the big issue with the solid The Nun, the fifth entry in the franchise. For everything that makes the film interesting and unexpected, there is another made for the lowest-common-denominator movie-goer. Director Colin Hardy (The Hallow) sets up a wonderfully creepy shot or idea but then immediately follows it with an obvious set-up for a jump. For a comparison, recall 2012’s The Woman in Black. For long sections, the film is brilliantly designed; using the location and darkness to create intense tension until the titular character shows up and screams.  Stillness is more unsettling than a scream.

On the films credit, there is a wealth of creep and dread, no matter how often it’s ultimately ruined. The Nun moves a great pace; there is little downtime, presenting one sequence after the other. It’s rather unrelenting and somes mean-spirited and direct for a wide-release, even if it doesn’t go for broke with the sequences. However, the downside of that onslaught is there is little room for character or subtext, keeping everything just at surface level. Sister Irene and the priest with her, Father Burke (Damian Bishir, Hateful Eight) have little to none of the guilt or doubt that often drives religious characters in film. Burke does have a bit of backstory in this vein, but it’s really more an excuse to keep him an active participant in the film. Their actions in the film are purely for scares or to drive the underwritten plot through to the next sequence.

Father Burke seemed familiar when he showed up, I had to look him up after the film to see if he was in the other Conjuring-verse films as well. He’s not. No doubt this is on purpose; I would expect to have further adventures of Burke and Irene. Bishir and Farmiga have enough chemistry and charisma to carry the film, even if there isn’t enough character to dig into. Unlike other similar films, they also get along just fine with no conflict between them.  Also on hand is Frenchie, played by Jonas Bloquet. He’s useless for the story, present occasionally as comic relief and be a voice for the audience. He could have been completely cut from the film and made no difference after a few moments re-written. Bonnie Aarons proves to be a great physical performer as Valek, giving horror in movements.

Despite it’s issues, The Nun is a worthy trip to the theater. It has a great look and tone, some well done scare sequences with wonderfully creepy imagery. Even with needless jump scares and light characterization, there is more than enough to keep interest and have a good time.

B-

(Longer and more spoiler-based versions of this review can be found at CityOfGeek.com)

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