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Review: The Nun

Less of a horror film, more an ad for the power of the Church

Following the mythology of The Conjuring franchise, The Nun is the origin story of the creepy spirit first introduced in The Conjuring 2. Here, a “miracle hunter” priest, Father Burke (Demián Bichir), and a novice, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), are sent to a Romanian abbey to investigate a nun’s suicide. There they find something much more sinister than that “sin.”

The Nun is a film which is relatively scary, with enough variety in thrills to keep one interested. It is very visually striking (the medieval castle which houses the nuns creates the perfect atmosphere), making it at least slightly more beautiful than the average franchise horror product. But after a certain point, not much progresses. The half-developed characters arrive at the castle, and evil things happen. And happen again. And again. Gradually, The Nun loses interest in being a horror film.

More than anything, The Nun seems to work best as Christian propaganda. The film cares little for its characters or narrative, but takes great pains to, in specific ways, present the Church as an active agent in the fight against evil. Belief, miracles, and an adherence to Christian regulations are the real heroes of the film. Which is not interesting. Focusing on details, like the power of prayer or the strength of faith, The Nun becomes obsessed with its central cause. Everything else, in a film already pumped full of clichés, becomes repetitive. The priest impulsively makes every bad decision possible in order to induce cheap scares. The unthreateningly cute secular companion, Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), spits out equally cheap (and not overly amusing) one-liners. And the wide-eyed novice is simply buffeted about the abbey by ghosts and the evil spirit Valak. Committed to championing Christianity as a comforting saviour, The Nun probably couldn’t care less about being very entertaining.

Chelsea Phillips-Carr

Chelsea Phillips-Carr is a freelance writer from Toronto. She has an MA in cinema studies.