Much like the way the youngest of five children must feel growing up in the shadow of their older sibling's accomplishments, The Nun, by all accounts, has a lot to live up to. The fifth installment in The Conjuring universe, it's a member of a family of films that has commanded over a billion dollars at the box office, making it a part of one of the most profitable horror franchises in history. The latest on a growing list of Conjuring spin-offs, The Nun may eventually fill those shoes, but like it's predecessor Annabelle, not without a few growing pains first.
Directed by Corin Hardy (The Hallow), The Nun is a true family affair. Taissa Farmiga, the real-life younger sister of The Conjuring's Vera Farmiga, stars as Sister Irene, a novitiate who has yet to make her commitment to the church final by taking her vows. Damian Bichir co-stars as Father Burke, a Catholic priest who the church calls on in, let's say, delicate situations. The duo is sent by the Vatican to the Romanian countryside to look into the apparent suicide of a nun at the Carta Monastery.
Written by James Wan and Gary Dauberman, The Nun takes place in 1952, placing it at the beginning of The Conjuring universe's timeline. The film, billed as the "darkest chapter in The Conjuring universe", successfully creates a dark, gothic setting for the characters to immerse themselves in. Bonnie Aarons reprises her role as the Nun, whose scene-stealing performance in the franchise's previous outing was undoubtedly the reason the character has been afforded its own film. Taissa Farmiga's engaging screen presence helps draw the viewer into the cold and gloomy world that unfolds in front of us. Unfortunately, I don't feel like I got pulled into that cold and gloomy world enough.
The Nun was a formidable foe to Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring 2, and left you with an insatiable thirst to know more about the Nun and her true identity, the demon Valak. This outing may manage to answer some of your questions, but for each one answered, two more sprout up in its place. The casual moviegoer will be satisfied as the movie is peppered with just enough intrigue and tension to keep you on the edge of your seat. But, save for the all-too-expected jump scares, The Nun only hints at the possible terror that lies beneath its surface. And for those of you who have been waiting to go deeper into the mythology behind this character, you may leave the theatre feeling that you don't know much more than you already did after the events of The Conjuring 2.
Even though it is a worthy entry in the series, The Nun makes me wonder how it would fare if it was an only child and not part of the larger family of Conjuring films from Warner Bros. It's unfair, but sometimes you have to do better than your brothers or sisters while jockeying for position in the family hierarchy. Let's just pray that if there is a sequel, it will give us more of what we want, and most importantly, be able to stand on it's own two feet.