It’s hard to stand in line at the multiplex for your tower of popcorn and bucket-sized soft drink nowadays without the image from some new Cinematic Universe film poster leering down at you demanding your attention and your cash. If it’s not the Marvel Cinematic Universe (thumbs up), it’s the DC Extended Universe (thumbs-sideways quivering downwards) or the Universal Dark Universe (thumbs removed, dead in the water). The Conjuring Universe seems to have crept up on us in a series of largely well-received horror movies orbiting around the exploits of spook hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) in the two Conjuring movies which have somehow begat two Annabelle deadly doll efforts. Now we have The Nun, a prequel of sorts to events depicted in The Conjuring 2 and unfortunately it’s an insipid, derivative and ultimately deadly dull horror-by-numbers that doesn’t do the reputation of this formative fear franchise any favours at all.
It’s 1952 in Romania, and two nuns living in a remote abbey are attacked by a sinister presence whilst searching for some nameless artefact. One of the nuns accidentally hangs herself in her haste to escape the strange entity which is dressed as an especially-malevolent nun. The Vatican, acting as a sort of ersatz holy MI5, sends Father Burke - a blessed Bond, if you will - to investigate the incident, accompanied by novitiate Sister Irene. At the abbey they discover that the body of the hanged nun has been moved from where it was hidden by local yokel Frenchie and when the abbey itself is infiltrated Burke and Irene discover that the nuns are desperately trying to keep at bay an evil demonic presence known as Varek, released during the Dark Ages but sealed up in the catacombs by Vatican troops centuries earlier. But the creature has escaped, taken the form of an evil nun and is busily getting into bad habits and creeping about scaring the bejeesus out of anyone who crosses its path.
The Nun is as drab and tedious as it sounds and quite possibly a lot more. The film is essentially a hackneyed collection of horror clichés and tropes which were jaded when Hammer was in its prime and the scares are strictly of the unsubtle ‘Eek, look what’s behind you!’ variety which just aren’t good enough any more and especially not in the latest entry into what’s often seemed like a promising horror franchise. The demon Varek doesn’t actually appear enough to make much of an impact here and all we’re really left with is a bunch of rather dreary stereotypes trudging around through the film’s unappealing, murky visual palette jumping and shrieking and, eventually, getting possessed and conspiring to banish Varek and her ghostly nun-chums by some arcane ritual involving blood and pentagrams. Yes, of course there’s an ‘OhmiGod’ ending which hint at a sequel if this one does well enough (and initial Box Office indications suggest it’s going to turn a chunky profit on a decent budget) but there’s really nothing here to frighten even the most timid of horses and seasoned genre fans will be rolling their eyes in despair at The Nun’s lack of originality and ambition. Don’t cancel a prior-y engagement for this Nun; let’s draw a veil over it and pray for something better from the next visit to the Conjuring Universe…
THE NUN / CERT:15 / DIRECTOR: CORIN HARDY / SCREENPLAY: GARY DAUBERMAN / STARRING: DEMIÁN BICHIR, TAISSA FARMIGA,JONAS BLOQUET, BONNIE AARONS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected rating: 5 out of 10