“The Nun,” the fifth instalment of the never-say-die horror series “The Conjuring,” is rated R for terror, violence and disturbing/bloody images and YouTube recently deemed movie’s teaser trailer too shocking for their website. And remember, YouTube specializes in weird ‘Dancing-Men-Wearing-Horse-Mask’ videos. But don’t believe the hype. “The Nun” is all soulless flimflam.
Set in In 1952 Romania, “The Nun” begins with a death at a cloistered abbey. “This place is…” says a local, “what’s the opposite of a miracle?” To investigate the suicide by hanging of the young nun at the Cârța Monastery the Vatican dispatches Catholic priest, Father Burke (Demián Bichir) and novitiate Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga). “I have orders from the Vatican to determine if the grounds are still holy,” he says.
Burke routinely examines “unusual matters” for the church but is troubled by an exorcism gone wrong while Irene, as a child, was plagued by visions of a mysterious nun. To uncover the abbey’s secret the holy rollers will have to risk not only their physical beings but metaphysical ones as well.
“The Nun” starts off slow and atmospheric. It begins to get less interesting about half-an-hour in when the jump scares start. From then on it is a pastiche of the kind of stuff you might expect from a place where Gregorian Chants echo down the hallways. The low budget, low wattage scares include a nightmarish scenario of open graves, folks burping up serpents, ghostly shadows, rolling rosary beads and, of course, the obligatory portal to hell.
Sound eerie? It isn’t.
Director Corin Hardy must have saved money on the lighting because everything is under lit by swinging oil lamps or shrouded in mist. It doesn’t matter much because there’s nothing interesting to look at anyway. The creep factor does get dialled up in the last half hour but it’s mainly a series of jump scares and surreal images, many of which look like outtakes from a Floria Sigismondi video. Add in a few intentional laughs and some not-so-intentional giggles and you have a film destined for the Midnight Madness circuit.
Here’s the thing. If there’s a door in your abbey that reads ‘God Ends Here’ it’s best to leave it closed. Burke and Co. could have done everyone, especially the audience, a favour by leaving well enough alone.