The NuN (***): Can’t quite live up to its incredible promise.

the-nun-movie-poster

The NuN – 2018

Directed Corin Hardy
Screenplay Gary Dauberman
Starring  Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet, Bonnie Aarons

For me, the moment that the Conjuring Universe came to life was the moment I saw the paining of Valak in the second film. That painting is up to no good, I knew. It’s going to hit the fan, to be sure. James Wan did not disappoint, either, and the subsequent scenes involving the habit-clad demon stole not only the rest of that film, but the subsequent sequel to Annabelle.

Perhaps it is because of this unexpected success that the first film bearing the name of the demon’s alter ego, The Nun, turns out to be somewhat underwhelming. There is nothing in the film that approaches any of the previous films’ in effective scares belies the fact that it is, in fact a good story to film. It’s setting, an almost abandoned Cârța Monastery in southern Transylvania, Romania, is a plumb spot to find a demon in the cellar. At the beginning of the story, one nun is taken into the depths screaming after getting an artifact and giving it to her younger counterpart, who almost immediately commits suicide.

Some time later, a man making deliveries from town comes across the dead young nun and reports get back to the Vatican. They send two emissaries. Father Burke(Bechir) is the older experienced priest. Farmiga is Sister Irene, yet to take her vows. Both are troubled by their previous experiences, but both are necessary to investigate the Monastery.

The story from this point is interesting, but nothing we haven’t seen before. This is where style might have helped push forward events. I appreciated Hardy’s previous effort, The Hallow as nearly a classic. There is a sense of build up and foreboding that line every inch of that film. It seems like he would be the perfect director to play on the sauntering fear of the tall foreboding demon that inhabits the back of every room.

There are some good moments here, but in general, this film doesn’t measure up to any of the previous efforts of Hardy or the Conjuring films. It feels like a placeholder, when it is clear the crowds that are going to swarm to this film expected a tent pole.

The result is a series of decent but not classic images that feel like a waste of the location, as much as anything. An old abandoned Monastery screams for long, slow, deliberate walks through dark corridors. Still shots should have Halloween-esque imagery wandering through the background and foreground. If they’d just slowed it all down a bit, they’d have had something.

What we get is more than competent, but somewhat perfunctory. There is minimal use of digital effects, which gives a grounded feel. Maxime Alexandre has much experience in practical horror, as seen in Annabelle: Creation and The Crazies. There is so much use of Aarons in her celebrated white makeup, contacts and habit, we get used to seeing her. This shouldn’t ever happen to the main antagonist.

The cast, to a large degree, feels wasted in this environment. The events that conspire feel both random and expected when there is not build up. You’re just going from scene to scene, gaining exposition but not really experiencing anything beyond a blitz here and there. If we’re going to see something we’ve seen before, just try to give us style.

Both Farmiga and Bichir are actors worth investing on a multi-picture arc, and it’s clear they have room to move in the script. It is especially interesting knowing that Taissa is the sister of one of the main stars of the series. By the end of the film, our enthusiasm is tempered.

This isn’t the last time I will see this film, however. I already plan to see it again in the next week. I will look in the corners more this time, and hopefully see something stirring.

 

(*** out of *****)

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