I went into this movie with higher hopes than I should have. I had seen The Conjuring 2 in theaters and had been really pleased with it. Sure, there were a lot of jump scares, but they worked effectively, especially the demon Valak. So, when The Nun was announced, I was all in, hoping to be scared as much as I had been before.
However, what I saw was not the case.
The Nun, coming from Conjuring 2 director Corin Hardy, settles around a priest and a novitiate traveling to a Romanian monastery after a nun commits suicide. Together along with the local who found the nun’s body, they attempt to fight off the evil lurking within the “holy” grounds. The film acts as a prequel to The Conjuring 2, taking place before the rest of the films in the Conjuring franchise.
The biggest takeaway I got was from the film’s atmosphere. Set during post-WWII Romania, The Nun manages to use its Gothic atmosphere really well, combining the eerie backdrop with a haunting score to create something that, in all honestly, scares the shit out of me. It reminded me of B-movie horror classics such as Black Sunday and Black Sabbath, both of which reek of Gothic atmosphere.
Taissa Farmiga and Demián Bichir both gave strong performances as the nun-in-training and priest, respectively. You could feel the kind of terror they were going through. However, the best performance has to go to Bonnie Aarons as the demon Valak, who easily stole every scene, despite her lack of dialogue.
Where the film suffers is in the screenplay. The story, as it unfolded, resembled too much of that of other supernatural horror films. It gets to the point where the scares aren’t that scary anymore because you already know what’s going to happen next. That brings me to my next point: the jump scares. The film, despite its strong sense of atmosphere, still felt the need to rely on jump scares like an injured athlete relies on their crutches. It got to the point where you could tell where Valak or any of the other demons were going to pop up just by how the camera moved or by which way the characters moved.
Overall, I think the film needed to rely less on its jump scares and more on its atmosphere. I thought it was so cool how they combined jump scares with an older sub-genre of film, but it proved to be too invested in current trends.