'The Nun' review: Sister hack

'The Nun' abuses darkness out of convenience

Oggs Cruz

9:10:16am September 9, 2018

9:10:16am September 9, 2018

THE NUN. The abyss is not safe as everyone thinks. All photos courtesy of Warner Bros

THE NUN. The abyss is not safe as everyone thinks. All photos courtesy of Warner Bros

There’s a whole lot of darkness to overcome in Corin Hardy’s The Nun.

Literal darkness

It would’ve been quite fine if it was figurative darkness that needs to be overcome since the film features a demon disguised as a nun wreaking havoc in a remote abbey in Romania.

Unfortunately, it is the literal darkness that renders Hardy’s film not just close to incomprehensible but also flat, dull and torturously unimaginative with its repetitive scares.

The darkness, of course, serves a purpose in establishing a consistent mood of imposing dreariness. The film’s prologue, which efficiently grants the glimpse of the threat of the demon trying to escape the holy site with a sequence that ends with a nun dreadfully killing herself, maximizes the frightening effect of that darkness. Its most calculated scare comes from the camera ominously zooming in on an unilluminated hallway up until the screen is just pitch black. The sequence regrettably ends with one of the film’s many jump scares, with a bloodied hand suddenly appearing from the darkness accompanied by the loudest and most jarring of scores.

The rest of The Nun is merely a continuation of this shtick.

IN THE NAME OF GOD. A priest tries to fight the evil in 'The Nun.'

IN THE NAME OF GOD. A priest tries to fight the evil in 'The Nun.'

A priest (Demian Bichir) on a Vatican-sanctioned mission, a young novitiate (Taissa Farmiga) and a French-Canadian guide (Jonas Bloquet) find themselves spending a couple of nights in the abbey to investigate the nun’s suicide.

Predictably, strange things happen, and the strange things, as directed by Hardy, are messily put together, with the misdirected flair doing nothing to graduate the thrills above being just mechanically shocking. The little fear that the film conjures doesn’t last more than the split seconds after the generically orchestrated jolt.

BEHIND YOU. A young novitiate finds herself fighting the dark side.

BEHIND YOU. A young novitiate finds herself fighting the dark side.

Convenient abuse

The Nun abuses darkness out of convenience.

This is a film that stubbornly relies on shadows and silhouettes. It teases with figures of the nun appearing in crevices and corners, which worked the first time Hardy utilized the gimmick. The second, third, and other times a nun flickered past or a figure weaves with the darkness.

The film sadly doesn’t have anything else in its bag of tricks. Most of the film hinges on recycling horror, before completely surrendering to madness with a frenzied finale that belatedly allowed Hardy to turn his feature into the gratuitously inane horror ride that it should have been right from the start.

The problem with The Nun is that while it is too obsessed with mood and atmosphere with its unfettered draping of everything with darkness and ruin, it only manages to deliver the most juvenile of frights and terror. Its attempt for gothic sophistication is betrayed by a glaring lack of imagination to go beyond noise and shrill images.

FORGIVENESS. The test inside the convent begins.

FORGIVENESS. The test inside the convent begins.

Money grab

Evidently, The Nun’s a money grab.

It is a product of hacks. It is a film whose existence hinges on perpetuating a franchise but doesn’t really endeavor to be anything more than a shallow diversion. – Rappler.com 

Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.

Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.