Horror films have arguably passed their golden age in cinema, having peaked within the late ’70s and ’80s, a period when constraints such as budgeting and lack of technology meant filmmakers needed to get creative.
Physical effects and clever cinematography created the horror, leaning into camp storylines and cheesy characterisations to engage the audience. As audiences grew and technology advanced, these films garnered higher budgets and greater computer imagery, to the detriment of filmmaking quality.
That is not to say filmmakers are no longer capable of creating unique or different takes on horror (with the likes of Scream, Saw and The Babadook); it’s just hard to make a horror film stand out these days. Unfortunately, The Nun is no different.
Yet another extension to The Conjuring universe, The Nun takes place in 1950’s Romania, following Father Burke (Demián Bichir) and novice Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) to the haunted Cârța Monastery, investigating reports of a recently deceased Nun becoming possessed by evil spirits. The next hour-and-a-half unfolds through choppy sequences of adequate jump scares, confusing back-and-forth editing and the occasional one-liner from Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet) to remind us that laughter exists in a terrifying universe.
There is nothing inherently wrong with The Nun. The cinematography is smooth, using tracking techniques to follow our protagonists through a creepy maze within the Monastery, as the demonic spirits roam in the background. The actors’ performances are good enough to feel empathy for their characters’ pursuits and at least hope that if they die, it’s a quick exit. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel like director Corin Hardy grabbed his ‘Horror Film 101′ checklist in production to make sure he did it right.
Lower the volume to a silence before some weird shit jumps out? Check.
Close-Ups of victims’ faces crying as they await their impending doom? Check
Victims following spirits into precarious areas knowing full well it won’t end well? Check
These are all cliche and expected tropes. Even cheap jump scares lose their short impact the thousandth time. Luckily, The Nun doesn’t fail at any of these tropes, but neither does it push the envelope for any of them. And horror, much like comedy, relies on the unexpected. If we can detect what’s going to happen next through overused techniques, the horror is going to suffer.
If you are interested in furthering your knowledge of The Conjuring universe or scare easily from predictable horror sequences, The Nun is yours for the taking. Other than that, you won’t miss much.
An advertisement for the film was pulled from the video sharing site YouTube, as many users complained that the five second clip featuring a startling jumpscare was “too scary.” Administrators thus removed the ad and apologized, claiming that it was not their intention to publish content that may potentially “offend” or “shock” viewers.