Horror Club: The Nun (spoilers)
It feels like few Hollywood horror movies have gained as much hype and excitement as the brand new film The Nun has in the past few months. Based on the fact that it shares the same universe as notorious films The Conjuring and Annabelle - as well as the fact that the trailers didn't really spoil any of the treats the film has in store - The Nun was destined from the beginning to be a box-office hit its opening weekend. With a budget of $22 million, the film managed to rake in an estimated $131 million, making it the best opening weekend for any film in the Conjuring series yet. But is The Nun worth your time and money in theaters? Simply put, if you're a Conjuring fan, hell fucking yeah, you'll probably dig it; but as a standalone movie, The Nun isn't going to shake you to your core like you'd hope.
It's no secret that I absolutely love both The Conjuring movies, as well as the Annabelle series - the Conjuring films were two of the only films in recent Hollywood horror that brought back that terror-feeling I got as a child watching horror flicks. I've been eagerly awaiting the third film from the franchise - so when The Nun was announced, I nearly lost my damn mind. Valak scared the shit out of audiences two years ago, and now the demon is back in its own origin side story and I couldn't have been more excited. While The Nun doesn't come close to outdoing the terror that The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 induce, I have to say I'm more than happy with how the film turned out, the direction it went in, and the tie-in to the rest of the universe. For me, The Nun is a must-see for fans of the franchise.
It's 1952 and the Vatican is contacted after a nun is found hanging from a noose in an apparent suicide, and in response they send Father Burke (whose job is to essentially debunk miracles) and Sister Irene, a young and cute nun-to-be to meet with a dude nicknamed Frenchie who is the guy who discovered the hanging body of the deceased nun as he was delivering supplies to the isolated abbey. Once they get there and get inside, shit slowly starts to hit the fan as evil forces begin terrorizing the group. Sister Irene joins in a constant-going prayer with the other nuns at the abbey, which they say helps to keep the evil at bay - and in between prayers, another Sister shares with Irene the story of why the abbey is so cursed: the duke who built the castle practiced dark arts and apparently opened a rift to Hell. While the rift could be closed with a drop of blood from Jesus Christ, the rift was once again open after an attack during WWII, and the evil was pouring out into the world in the form of the our beloved Valak, who torments the abbey in the form of a nun, which allows the demon to blend in among the other Sisters at the abbey. It is up to Sister Irene, Father Burke and the tag-along Frenchie to confront the demon head-on and put an end to Valak's reign of terror over the isolated Romanian abbey.
To truly enjoy The Nun experience, there's no doubt in saying that you need to have at least seen (and hopefully enjoy) the previous Conjuring films. Because while I ended up really enjoying The Nun, I'm just not entirely sure that viewers watching the movie as a standalone film who aren't aware of the previous movies will enjoy the newest addition as much as they should. As a standalone film, the movie is good entertainment; but when you consider it as part of the whole, it's great entertainment, and I think that's what's going to make or break it for theater-goers the next few weeks. The Nun sheds some excellent desired light on Valak's presence on Earth, and the battle between good and evil is pretty entertaining to watch. Valak's devious ways get creative and haunting all throughout - for example, after Father Burke shares his story with Sister Irene about an exorcism-gone-wrong in which the young boy didn't survive the "treatment," Valak manifested visions of the boy to haunt Father Burke in some of the films most disturbing and unsettling scenes. Father Burke isn't alone in his terrors though - Valak shares plenty of the horror with Sister Irene and the sidekick Frenchie, making The Nun filled with some fun jump scares and plot twists. But its definitely worth noting that The Nun is not overloaded with your every day jump scares; in fact, The Nun feels more like a plot-driven film as opposed to a scream-fest. I'm not entirely sure the film was made to make you jump out of your seat in pure terror; it feels like it was more concerned with telling the story of Valak while adding in a few good scares as opposed to just two hours of "boo!" And I'm totally okay with that - but I can understand why some viewers may be disappointed if that's what they were expecting to go see this weekend.
One thing that is undeniable about the movie - whether you loved the film or not - is that the sets were immaculate. The fortress that the Sisters live in - surrounded by crosses every two feet in the ground - is a beautifully constructed piece of land that any goth would absolutely die to spend even an hour in. The interior filled with candles and beautiful statues and imagery - even the beheaded Jesus on the cross statue - totally sets the tone for the film; the team behind The Nun really outdid themselves in that department. And how about the demon itself: Valak? Bonnie Aarons has portrayed Valak in both The Conjuring 2 and Annabelle: Creation, and while both performances were excellent and terrifying, nothing compares to that of The Nun. Aarons brings Valak to life in such a horrifying way that surely any kids whose parents are awesome enough to let their kids see the movie will be seeing that face in their nightmares for the next few weeks, at least. Overall, the acting is pretty spot on as a whole but of course, Aarons absolutely steals the show anytime she is on screen. While I'm not going to share the excellent extra tie in to the Conjuring universe here, it's worth noting that the extra bit of information really brings the movie full circle which earns The Nun extra points. It was a very well done tie-in that they kinda just throw in at the very end, but it was so well done that it definitely needs to be noted.
To sum it all up: to me, The Nun is worth both your time and money; especially if you're a fan of any of the other films in the franchise. While you may not get the nightmares you recieved from The Conjuring or The Conjuring 2, The Nun delivers pure demonic terror in a welcomed-origin story for the franchises most notorious villain. It's a fun watch with some fun jump scares and an intriguing story line, and it definitely kept my attention all throughout. Two thumbs up from Soulless Cult: go see this before it leaves theaters if you love a good spook.