The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Nun

During a memorable sequence in The Conjuring 2, a painting of a creepy nun comes to life and terrorizes Vera Farmiga's character. The Nun is a prequel purporting to tell us who that nun is and how she became so evil. It's part of what Warner Bros. and New Line Pictures have dubbed “the Conjuring Universe.” Does The Conjuring really need a universe? We've already had Annabelle and its sequel, which centered on the eerie doll that momentarily factored into the original. What's next – a prequel about the flashlight this movie's hero carries?

Of course, the sinister sister of the title (as we know her) is barely in the film, so that tells you how misguided this whole abysmal affair is.

Demian Bichir plays a priest named Father Burke. The Vatican sends him to a Romanian convent to investigate the apparent suicide of a young nun. Accompanying him is a novitiate, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga, sister of Vera). Upon arriving, spooky things begin happening. This is literally the plot of almost every Catholic-based horror movie ever, so The Nun quickly loses points for originality.

Storytelling is not the picture's strong suit anyway. Underdeveloped characters and unexplained situations make it virtually impossible to follow what's going on. The movie's approach seems to be, Look, here's something scary! Who cares why it's happening? Just jump at this sudden loud noise already! Much of The Nun is people walking around aimlessly, having conversations with no substance, until something pops out at them. When Sister Irene finally achieves her big realization about what's going on, it turns out to be something the movie told us in its first five minutes. So much for building suspense.

The Nun relies on all the usual Catholic horror movie cliches, including crosses that turn upside down, crucifixes that spontaneously topple to the ground, and, of course, the requisite dark catacombs that run beneath the convent. Such elements have become overused, so the only way to make them feasible is to find an original context in which to put them, as Aislinn Clarke did with July's The Devil's Doorway – a much better film with more than a passing resemblance to this one.

Director Corin Hardy previously made an atmospheric horror movie called The Hallow. What a comedown The Nun is for him. The director manages a few interesting visuals during the shock moments, but his feel for ambiance and plotting are nowhere on display. The story meanders around until the titular character finally makes her big appearance in the final ten minutes, at which point you're likely to not care anymore.

Major studio horror movies tend to cannibalize themselves, issuing too many sequels (Friday the 13th, Saw) or cranking out too many similar films in a short period of time (i.e. the “torture porn” craze or the brief obsession with Asian-horror remakes like The Ring and The Grudge). The Nun represents the worst of that tendency. This is a depressingly generic picture that feels like a cash grab on the studio's part. It doesn't even seem to be trying very hard to entertain.

( out of four)

The Nun is rated R for terror, violence, and disturbing/bloody images. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.

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