The sinister star of the latest entry in the expanding Conjuring Universe had little more than a walk-on role in 2016’s The Conjuring 2, but that hasn’t stopped producer James Wan from giving this twisted sister an origin story, albeit one that’s as thin as the page of a bible and lacking in any real scares.
Following the suicide of a young nun at a creepy Romanian abbey in 1952, the Vatican despatches Father Burke (Demián Bichir) and novitiate Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) to investigate. Burke is a specialist in unholy phenomenon and haunted by the failed exorcism of a young boy, while Irene has visions that could lead her to the source of the evil that has been unleashed in the abbey – a demon that looks suspiciously like Marilyn Manson in a nun’s habit.
What follows is a mishmash of rote jump scares and horror movie clichés in search of a decent plot. Largely reliant on its atmospheric Romanian location (the abbey itself is such a godforsaken place, all that’s missing is a sign reading “Abandon hope all ye who enter here” on the door), there’s little in the way of logic, coherence or shock value amidst all the inverted crosses, backlit graveyards, reanimated corpses and snake vomiting.
Characters react to the horror like it happens to them daily, and the titular demon doesn’t actually do a lot beyond lurking in dark catacombs and popping up exactly when you expect it.
Director Corin Hardy is strictly bound by formula here, which is a shame, as his previous film – the within-the-woods monster movie The Hallow – was really good. But at least he manages to deliver a visually rich film that strives to capture the look of classic Euro-horror.
The current wave of supernatural horror movies is beginning to resemble the slasher film cycle of the 1980s, in that they’re all pretty much the same. The Nun is a perfect example of this generic trend; it’s a lazy, cynical exercise in franchise building that gives the target audience exactly what they expect and nothing more.
Conjuring fans eager to discover how the nun came to haunt Lorraine Warren will get an answer, while those hoping for a satisfyingly scary serve of religious horror are better off revisiting The Exorcist.
In cinemas: September 6, 2018
Starring: Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet
Directed by: Corin Hardy