I know this is a few days late, but I didn’t get to see The Nun until Sunday. Spoilers ahead, and while I feel this should go without saying, do not under any circumstances take a kid to see this film.
The Nun is the third spin-off from The Conjuring series. Specifically, this is a prequel to The Conjuring 2 about the main villain in that film, the demon Valak. You don’t need to have seen either of Conjuring movies, but if you have, you know exactly what kind of movie you're in for.
Set in 1952, a nun in Romania commits suicide, the ultimate sin in Catholicism, or at its presented as such in this movie. I’m admittedly not Catholic, so I can’t speak as to what the correct doctrine is, but I digress. In the morning the nun is found still hanging from the rope by a local man and the Vatican is informed. The Vatican sends Father Burke, an exorcist, to investigate the nun’s death. He brings along a sister who hasn’t taken her vows yet, Irene, and the two head to Romania.
The film itself is a mixed bag, the setup is intriguing enough, but I was already interested in this film prior to its release because I’m a big fan of The Conjuring. What the Nun does get right, it gets really right. It’s very atmospheric, and the abbey itself, is unnerving throughout the film. There’s some fantastic set pieces, particularly a scene that takes place in a graveyard, that really manage to sell it. Part of the atmosphere is the music, which is a mix between the strings found in Psycho, and ominous chanting. There’s a scene in a chapel that uses the chanting to perfect effect, and while the scene is similar to one in the Conjuring 2, it’s still frightening.
The story itself is decent. It’s interesting enough that I wanted to know what would happen next, but there’s a few spots where it misses the mark. The ending was a bit of a deus ex-machina that any horror fan will be able to figure out easy enough, and the characters make some very classic horror mistakes, such as splitting up in dark mysterious places. This is something that just confounds me in horror movies, but in all fairness, this may very well come from my days playing Dungeons and Dragons, where “never split the party” is a major ground rule. Every time I’ve been in a scenario where the party split up, someone died.
There’s a handful of things that don’t fit together as well as they should. For example, I don’t know if this counts as a plot hole, but it stood out to me. Burke finds some old book and learns that Valak is what’s haunting the abbey. In the Conjuring 2, learning Valak’s name is what gives Lorraine power over him, allowing her to cast Valak back to hell. The way it was presented, it seems that learning the name of any demon gives you power over it. Father Burke is an exorcist, and I feel like he should know this, but he never once uses Valak’s name in such a way. Like I said, I don’t know if that counts as a plot hole, but bare minimum it feels like an inconsistency in the setting.
The backstory of the abbey I have mixed feelings on, part of it was interesting and part of it was eye rolling. In the dark ages a Duke built the abbey (originally a castle) and opened a gateway to summon Valak because, he was obsessed with the occult I guess? At the last-minute soldiers of the Church, who look remarkably like Templar Knights, take control of the castle and manage to close the gateway with the blood of Christ. I don’t mean that as a joke, I mean they literally have an artifact that contains the blood of Jesus Christ, one drop of which was enough to seal the gate. Gee, I wonder how they’re going to defeat Valak a second time. Anyway, a Church is built on top of gate to keep it sealed. This works for several hundred years until WWII happens, and a bomb hits the abbey, opening the seal again