There's something to be said (positively!) about a horror film that believes the most effective way to curb demonic forces from taking over our planet is to literally pray them away. Corin Hardy's The Nun, a prequel in the hugely successful Conjuring franchise, is one such fright flick, and, in its depiction of good versus evil—that is, Catholic versus the Other—it's a special-and-practical-effects heavy good time.
Primarily set in 1952 in a Romanian abbey populated by nuns, Father Burke (Demián Bichir) and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) travel to the immediately creepy confines to investigate a recent suicide-by-hanging carried out by one of the Sisters. Burke is someone who hesitantly specializes in uncovering miracles—he remains haunted by an exorcism gone wrong that he carried out several years prior—and Sister Irene is someone who has telling premonitions about the Virgin Mary and, well, other things. Together they're both haunted souls and, along with a French Canadien sidekick, set up shop to deal with their own figurative and literal demons.
The Nun feels like a fun 1980s throwback in which the freakish killer is a nonverbal monster with grotesque features that requires a whole makeup department to get right.
The Nun is filled with jump scares that are more creative than you might anticipate. Yes, there are only so many ways to show someone running quickly out of frame in the background of a shot before it grows tiresome, but enough of these spooky moments, such as where a maze-like group of corpses standing upright with sacks over their heads attempt to block our protagonist's rescue of the heroine, make sense.
In this writer's opinion, a nun's habit is inherently mysterious, and the more obscure a Sister's face is, the more unwelcoming it grows. Hardy doubles-down to reiterate this observation; a good third of the film's unsettling moments come as a result of Burke or Irene trying to get the attention of someone (or something) dressed in nun's garb that walks past them or prays in front of them. The effect works, and when we're told that the creepy entity has taken on the appearance of a nun (conceivably to quietly blend in with the other residents of the abbey), we realize that the habit is an ecumenic sign of someone not to be messed with.
Accompanied by a bunch of unexpected wisecracks from our leads, The Nun feels like a fun 1980s throwback in which the freakish killer is a nonverbal monster with grotesque features that requires a whole makeup department to get right. It also features a preposterous backstory involving Crusade fighters and the blood droplets of Jesus Christ, and that's bonkers enough in-and-of-itself to be taken in good faith.
To get a sense of how the production was pulled off, check out this extensive behind-the-scenes footage below.
Have you seen The Nun? What's your take on The Conjuring franchise? Are you anticipating the next installment in this "horror universe?" Let us know in the comments.