The Nun is the latest installment of James Wan’s Conjuring Cinematic Universe, jumping back a few decades to give us the origin story of a walking painting from The Conjuring 2. I went in with high hopes, as I am a big fan of the Conjuring and Annabelle: Creation, but I was pretty disappointed and not just because I drank two bottles of soju and ate a fermented crab beforehand. The critical consensus squares with my take, with the movie earning only a lowly 28% on rottentomatoes. And I believe, as I fancy myself something of a Conjurist, that I know why.
It failed to follow the formula! The Conjuring laid out a full-proof formula for making these movies not suck. It involves a long-tracking shot of wherever the primary action is taking place, to establish a sense of the scale and physical layout of the place where all the doomery is going to go down. That way, when the demon is chasing the main character down the hall later spitting blood or whatever, YOU KNOW HOW FAR THEY HAVE TO RUN TO GET TO THE NEXT DOOR. This formula also includes a long first act, in which the ghostly presence makes itself known through increasingly haunty hauntings, before the devil detectives show up around the 2nd act to inject some legs into the film on the back-end. It’s a simple formula, and when they followed it in The Conjuring 1 & 2, and Annabelle: Creation it worked like gangbusters. Annabelle, which definitely did not follow this formula in any way, sucked!
The Nun also does not follow the formula even though this creepy ass convent stuffed away in a spooky European woods would have been the perfect place for a long-tracking shot on its ghostly catacombs and moss-covered walls, soaked in the perfume of death and history. But no, who has time to carefully construct the world of your creepy film when there are literally dump trucks full of cash out there waiting to be backed up into your bank account based on brand recognition alone?
Further, the ghost detectives don’t arrive mid-way through - they arrive in the beginning! This leaves them no where to really go, so the film runs out of steam quicker than it should. How cool would it have been if someone in the convent was being terrorized by a demonic presence for 20-30 minutes, and THEN the ghost detective sent by the Vatican shows up to combat this evil? They got the narrative progression all wrong, and it stuffs up the film.
Also, this movie is DARK. I don’t mean dark, like full of demonic fear. I mean dark like I couldn’t tell what the fuck I was looking at.
And lastly, this movie is a naked cash-grab that didn’t need to be made. And this time, as opposed to Annabelle: Creation, it showed. It showed in the lack of effort, the lack of passion, the lack of care and detail. This was an assembly-line film banking on the Conjuring brand to make money, which it did. And it’s a shame really, because the setting was fully primed to deliver us a great ghost story. It takes place in this beautiful natural woods, in an old convent that could not be more perfect for demonic hijinks. And then it just totally dropped the ball.
Really disappointing. Either they should stop making these films (not gonna happen) or they should stick to the formula that worked and put at least a modicum of effort into making the quality of the films worthy of their pedigree.