The Nun (2018) Review

Plot: When a young nun at a cloistered abbey in Romania takes her own life, a priest with a haunted past and a novitiate on the threshold of her final vows are sent by the Vatican to investigate. Together, they uncover the order’s unholy secret. Risking not only their lives but their faith and their very souls, they confront a malevolent force in the form of a demonic nun.

Review: The Nun is the best of The Conjuring series. These films has been based on paranormal investigations carried out by the two biggest fraudulent investigators ever. The lies from those investigations have been made into movies before including The Amityville Horror. The Conjuring series adds a thick coat of “and God was there” as a religious lesson. The Nun gives a fresh look at the series by abandoning many of the past mistakes.

The movie opens clumsily enough with some review of The Nun’s scary appearance in a previous film and a declaration that the events really happened. We come into a scary scene of a young nun, in terror who suddenly hangs herself. Subtitles say the year is now 1952. We meet a priest, Father Burke ( Demián Bichir) doing an exorcism. We meet a young nun Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) who has not taken her vows, which makes her a bit of an outsider. Farmiga is the spitting image of her mother who has been in the series and she has the same talent. This is interesting because we can wonder if she grows up to be her mother’s character.

Separately the young nun and the priest are assigned to go investigate the suicide. Why would you need an exorcist to investigate a suicide, unless it has something to do with that locked room? We don’t see any cars or planes so we can wonder if time is being played with. This is answered later. Many lines in this movie are followed up on and lead to the conflict in the final act rather steadily and even predictably. Yet the final battle manages to raise the stakes, turn up the heat and end in very character driven choices.

In early scenes we find the investigators likable but the rules of this world to be a bit fuzzy. The idea of the unreliable narrator comes into play as we follow the young nun and the priest separately. Entire scenes happen to one person but then no one else can see what they were talking about. Perception and reality are not too tightly attached. Any subjective event that happens is taken back by the end of the scene before we are left feeling that nothing is real and nothing matters.

This is executed very well in the filmcraft. The story by James Wan and Gary Dauberman was made into a screenplay by Dauberman. Wan was preparing to direct “Aquaman.” The script is excellent and should be studied for pacing alone. Wan previously directed “The Conjuring 2,” along with “Insidious” 1, “Insidious 2” and “Saw” but not this film. Dauberman has written three “Annabelle” films from the series including the upcoming film. Director Corin Hardy takes the directing reigns in only his first major film after “The Hollow” and really makes a tight story flow. Hardy and Cinematographer, who is on his 26th film, present a series of shots that lead without disorienting.

We see what they see or what they think they see. They see dark shadows flitting about. Are they nuns or the ghosts or nuns? We are halfway through the film before we find out that the convent is populated. The remaining nuns are so spooky to speak with the investigators must suspect they are dead. It goes unsaid.

Bonnie Aarons ably plays the title character nun who is actually “the demon known as Valak.” Some confrontations with the ghoulish nun seem very solid but after the ghoul closes in for the kill it seems unable to get an earthly grip on them.

Never have so many fatal-looking jump scares been delivered to so few characters. That alone is so much more involving than watching a band of campers killed off one by one.

Slowly the demon builds strength. Even now the camerawork is key to placing us the actor’s point-of-view. When they feel a cold chill and start looking for an attack it isn’t certainly happening until the camera rotates and reveals that we see the ghoul. The camera shots form a very reliable pattern instead of being all over the place. This is a very solid way to terrify us before the attack and to always deliver on the scare. It is coming. It is coming now so do not blink.

In the history presented the ghoul was a demon summoned up from a pit. It had been sealed using an artifact with the blood of Christ. Maybe our heroes should be looking around for that. The religious devotion of the investigators is key as the convent uses prayer to keep the demon from killing them. The young nun takes her vows as a nun before the final fight. The series couldn’t let the solving everything through prayer trope go but it seems like a natural fit for a convent setting.

The audience loved it. I would not be surprised if these two suddenly get assigned to another script, I mean case.