Everyone's gunning for a cinematic universe payday, and one of the successful practitioners of that art is Warner Bros. / New Line's Conjuring Universe. On the strength of last year's Annabelle: Creation, which helped audiences forget the rather lackluster predecessor, Annabelle, series masterminds James Wan and Gary Dauberman have attempted to tap another vein of horror gold with The Nun. The latest is a spinoff dealing with the origins of Valak The Defiler, a central spectre in The Conjuring 2's narrative. While The Nun is not as infamous as Annabelle or as top notch as The Conjuring films, it's definitely a fun, pre-Halloween horror film that's sure to prime you for the spooky season ahead.
As for plot, in 1952, a suicide rocks the nuns cloistered in the Abbey of St. Carta. A priest specializing in supernatural cases (Demian Bechir) and a young woman on her way to becoming a nun (Taissa Farmiga) are assigned by The Vatican to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident. Right from the start, all is not what it seems to be, as the pair delves deeper into the mystery surrounding the nuns hidden from the outside world, and the evil they're sworn to protect the world against. It isn't long before the faith of all involved is tested, as Valak is ready to leave the abbey, no matter who gets in its way.
Director Corin Hardy's entry into The Conjuring universe is a bleak affair, with well-timed comedic beats that save the film from becoming too dour and, in some cases, too scary. It's never boring, as Demian Bechir and Taissa Farmiga's talents compliment each other, giving us a pair to root for through The Nun's haunted house-type of adventure. Helping them along in this quest is Jonas Bloquet's quippy, stand out character, simply named Frenchie. While his presence adds an air of charm and humor to the proceedings, it does also distract from the film's sole purpose: to scare the audience.
The Nun is, perhaps, the lightest of The Conjuring series' offerings, as the humor does diffuse the tension in some cases, and flat out undermines the film's events in others. After scaring audiences pretty effectively with both The Conjuring 2 and Annabelle: Creation, one would have thought that the streak was set to continue with a set formula in place between the franchise proper and its various spinoffs. That is definitely not the case, as the horrors The Nun has to show us aren't anything we haven't seen before, both inside and out of this universe.
In spite of such factors, The Nun is still a pleasing film to watch, which very easily engrosses the audience with the part it plays within the structure of The Conjuring universe. By time the film is over, key information is given pertaining to both Valak's arrival in our world, as well as how it would set the table for The Warren's stories in both Conjuring films. So, while it's not a particularly scary film, it's still a tense narrative that further binds James Wan's cinematic universe together. Even better, Corin Hardy's direction slickly presents it all with a confident flare of someone who truly loves horror films, and it shows in every frame.
The Nun isn't the full meal one would expect from films associated with The Conjuring, but it's a rather appetizing continuation of the trend that's seen major studios learning to do horror justice again. Should you be the type that's looking for an entry point into The Conjuring universe, or just a horror offering to kick off the Halloween season right, The Nun shall pass.