The Nun may have made a fortune in its opening week, but falls remarkably short in both quality and scares alike.
In an age where atrocious films like The Last Jedi and The Meg can pull record global crowds through unprecedented promotion and hype prior to their respective release dates, it comes as no surprise that an ill-written, over-hyped, jump-scare-centric piece of crap like The Nun is currently killing it at the box office.
The Nun just made $53.5 million on opening weekend in the US, and another $77.5 million internationally. This makes it the biggest hit of any entry in the entire Conjuring franchise and the second-largest September opening of all time. Not only that, it’s the second-largest opening for an R-rated horror film of all time (the first being the most recent version of IT).
With The Nun’s earnings being so solid, it’s an even sharper kick in the guts walking out of the cinema realizing that the best part of the film was the spectacularly misleading trailer. It’s also a damn shame that we all got roped into the hype, believing that something freshly terrifying was about to hit the big screen, when in reality it’s just another terribly written cash-grab, with much more thought for marketing than cinematic quality.
One of the official Nun trailers…(Source: Warner Bros)…
I desperately wanted to like The Nun, I really did. I’ve written two lengthy articles on it, and also did plenty of heavy research about both its creators and its mythology. I was truly excited about this film, as I’m a big fan of The Conjuring universe. Yet, after the first act of The Nun had played out for me on opening night, I knew this wasn’t even partially close to the terrifying, slickly-written film I had hoped for. Rather than getting cerebral horror that creeped me out for days, The Nun disconcertingly revealed itself to be a hugely underwhelming jump-scare-centric popcorn film that was about as terrifying as Twilight.
Besides touting itself as the ‘darkest chapter in the Conjuring universe,’ The Nun also unofficially promised itself as some sort of Exorcist equivalent for a new age – even going so far as to mimic the original 1973 masterpiece’s cover shot…
The demon Valak, whether they admit or not, is also obviously heavily influenced by the ghoulish white-faced demon face that flashes up in nightmares throughout the original Exorcist, but is not a tenth as scary…
Don’t be fooled by the underlying comparison, The Nun is no Exorcist, not by a long shot. Nor is it even close to being the ‘darkest film in the Conjuring universe.’ This movie barely even measures up to the atrocious Exorcist 2: The Heretic, or any of the other disgraceful prequels and sequels not handled by the original 1973 ‘OG’ outfit.
Anyone who grew up with mild to severe PTSD from repeatedly watching the original William Friedkin possession film to end all demon/possession films, and who can appreciate the time-context and limitations of horror production in 1973 compared to now, knows that The Exorcist is quite simply the scariest horror film ever made. It’s also one of the most decorated. The Exorcist won two Academy Awards and four Golden Globes plus a stack of other acclaim spanning decades. It should be noted that William Peter Blatty, who was the original author of The Exorcist novel, and who also penned the film’s script, was the recipient of both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for best screenplay.
(If you haven’t seen The Exorcist, make sure you watch the original and NEVER the directors cut. The ‘cut’ is out of sequence and some silly stuff that didn’t make it to the original remains. It has the ‘spider walk’ scene, but other than that, not even worth your time. The original release is hard to find these days, but digging around a bit for it will be well worth your while).
This newest Conjuring spin-off is unworthy of even being placed in the same DVD shelf as The Exorcist, and has no chance of even being nominated – not even with the Academy as close to irrelevance as they presently are. The abysmal writing and complete lack of originality in The Nun are its glaringly obvious weakest links, and the story is so bad that even the self-righteous, virtue signaling morons from the Academy would have to agree that its penmanship stinks.
So, don’t expect Conjuring-esque cleverness in this flick. It’s more like Nightmare on Elm Street meets Agnes of God, then repackaged for Fast & Furious fans. Yeah, that’s three franchises/films that shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same sentence – but that’s what you get when you promise clever gothic R-rated horror, then deliver something that in truth falls into the same category of ‘craft’ as a Chucky film.
The Nun does start off promising, and the acting, score, and cinematography are solid throughout. You can’t polish a turd though, and like so many poorly written horror films it’s in the ‘reveal’ where everything goes astray, in turn ‘revealing’ the script as wholly lazy and unimaginative.
The first, the worst, and most heinously disappointing of these ‘reveals’ comes in a flashback where both the Romanian convent (the film’s main setting) and Valak’s intertwined pasts are somewhat explained by going back to the dark ages.
There are glimpses of knights and crusaders, dark wizards – and even a slime covered Valak rising from Hell. Yet, as cool as that potentially sounds, it just doesn’t cut it. In fact, you’ll probably laugh out loud (I did). This particular flashback has the feel of crew members being hurriedly jostled into medieval gear to save money on extras. Yes, it’s that bad.
*Word of caution to filmmakers: if you do a montage-driven flashback in a big-budget horror flick, you need to deliver, and be somehow be original and entertaining; imparting thoughtful or terrifying insights about the characters to the audience – then using these same insights to tie up the ending. Otherwise it just comes off as a half-assed way to hurriedly explain something that the people involved didn’t have the skill to properly include. (See ‘the book of the dead’ scene in Evil Dead 2 or ‘the exorcism’ scene in The Conjuring for some schooling on a how a brief, quality flashback can bring head-turning solidity to a horror film).
A clever flashback via the use of a film projection in the original Conjuring…(source: Warner Bros)
The Nun has multiple other reveals, and none of them are even remotely satisfying, nor are they in any way remarkable. They are clichéd and silly, almost to the point of laughter. Every time something clicks, you think: really – is that the way they are going play that out? That’s LAME.
The original Conjuring is then finally factored in at the very end of The Nun, when the abovementioned scariest scene/flashback from within this first film (where Lorraine Warren, played by Vera Farmiga, locks eyes with the demon during an exorcism. Featured above) is re-jigged to involve Valak. Yet instead of sending a shiver down your spine, it’s almost heartbreakingly stupid. This, the most memorable scene in the mostly-brilliant original Conjuring is then unashamedly bastardized even further for a predictable and lazy open-ended ending, undoubtedly intended to cheaply open the way to even more Conjuring films.
(The Crooked Man is in development. A third Annabelle film is in pre-production, and a third Conjuring film is also in development – just for starters).
The actors, dripping with talent, are completely wasted by this disheartening plot. Here you have potentially brilliant characters across the board, all ready to deliver, yet are not able to dig themselves out of the hole that the screenwriter shovels for them (no pun intended).
I thought Father Burke (Demián Bichir) would be written in as some sort of unfaltering, heroic soldier of God – NOPE. He’s an ineffectual bitch. I thought Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) would get her ‘Ripley’ on and take on the ‘Big Bad’ in an enthralling and ruthless fight to the finish – NOPE. Her character actually made me yawn. And the dude who plays Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet) is comedy relief without the comedy part, so he gets a hefty NOPE too.
It’s not their fault though. These guys have to just do what they are told, and all of them have glaringly bright futures. Again, it all comes down to the godawful script.
I’m not going to give any more of this plot, or lack of, away for you – other than to say it blows goats. If you are anything like me, you’ll disregard the plethora of negative reviews (including this one) and want to see it anyway. I mean, you saw the trailers, you saw how good it looked? You are just like I was once: hopeful, excited – and a big fat SUCKER.
Trust me, your hopes will be dashed and dashed hard. Basically, every worthwhile scene was shown in the trailers anyway. This film is completely nun-derwhelming.
I’ve seen episodes of The Wiggles scarier than this.
1 out of 5 stars.