Erik Jimenez/Staff Writer
When it comes to cinematic universes aside from Marvel’s cultural juggernaut, the one created by “The Conjuring” is arguably the best. The newest chapter, “The Nun,” is admittedly more on the “Annabelle” side of quality, but it has enough atmospheric chills to make it significantly more enjoyable than the latter.
The two “Conjuring” films are some of the most legitimately terrifying experiences in recent years. And while the weakest entry, “Annabelle,” was a rather forgettable experience, it’s prequel “Annabelle: Creation” was an improvement over its predecessor.
Set in 1952, the film follows Father Burke (Demian Bichir) and his young novitiate Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) as they are tasked by the Vatican to investigate the suicide of a nun at a Romanian monastery. But when they get there, they discover the monastery was built by Satanists in the Dark Ages who happened to open a portal to Hell, from which a demon known as Valak has escaped from. As the titular nun, the demon is now torturing those at the monastery and the nearby village.
It’s a pretty standard story, but what pushes the film into a solid, if unexceptional, experience is its atmosphere. The film’s location – a dark, castle-like structure in Eastern Europe – brings to mind stories of Dracula and the Wolfman, and it has the cinematography to boot. Fog seems ever eternal on the ground at a nearby cemetery. The hallways are dark and dingy, where even the brightest of flames can only illuminate a few feet ahead. And the ancient monk-like chanting that begins whenever the demon appears in its nun form ramps up the intimidation factor.
It also helps that the acting isn’t half bad. Demian Bichir continues to show how underrated of an actor he is by making his Father Burke likable. The character is doing the best job he can considering that he failed pretty heavily the last time he had a demonic encounter. Farmiga sends off an innocent presence, making her the demon’s most preferable victim as well as its strongest opponent.
The duo is also joined by a villager named “Frenchie” who is portrayed by Jonas Bloquet. As the main comic relief in the film, a lot of his scenes manage to bring out laughs even if it feels forced at times. Though that might be from the audience wanting to laugh at something just to break the monotony of screams.
If there’s any issue with the film, it’s that the characters feel a bit underdeveloped. The third act also loses some steam on the scares, turning into a loud, bombastic climax that wouldn’t seem out of place in an action film.
I appreciate the fact that, like other entries in “The Conjuring” universe, the jump scares are legitimate since they come from the demon instead of, say, a cat or another person. But they can still fail, especially since they follow the “Conjuring” formula of having the ghost pop out from somewhere unexpected.
Still, if you enjoyed previous entries in this franchise, this one is worth checking out. Just leave any “Conjuring”-level expectations at the door.
Photo by Ambul Mustafa on Flickr.