Before we get to just how bad The Nun is, it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate the fact that it’s taken the so-called Conjuring Universe this long to deliver a full-on dud. The tone was effectively set by director James Wan in The Conjuring back in 2013, and even when its successors haven’t matched its quality, the series has proven to be the perfect sandbox for some terrific stylists to unleash their raw creativity with full studio support. It’s also an unlikely rehabilitation for real-life demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, the deeply religious couple who have witnessed several proven hoaxes but have been effective and charming as the series’ moral center.
And then comes The Nun. If Annabelle and its sequel, Annabelle: Creation, stretched the Warren’s lore to its breaking point, at least it was worth the detour. The Nun, meanwhile, is so fundamentally broken at its core that there’s nothing to stretch into a fun or entertaining story. Every time it builds up the potential for something interesting, it falls back on the same tired tricks, like a teenage guitarist who’s just learned how to two-hand tap. Demons are apparently content to reach out from nothing to grab someone with no apparent plan, and pity the next director who gets saddled with having to find new ways of stretching the design of the nun herself, looking about as scary as Marilyn Manson’s Christmas card.
The story brings us to rural Romania, where a young nun’s mysterious suicide attracts the attention of the Vatican. They recruit Father Burke (Demián Bichir) to investigate, with the help of novitiate Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) and local laborer of French Canadian extraction, “Frenchie” (Jonas Bloquet). It seems the nun’s death was related to some deeper evil within the convent, which is located inside a medieval castle with possible sinister origins. Yadda yadda yadda, shit gets crazy, demons get demonic, audience members endure the longest 96 minutes of their lives.
A lot of nonsense can be forgiven of genre movies if they deliver on the basics, but there are no legitimate scares anywhere in The Nun. The Annabelle story was downright idiotic, but the movie had some of the best representations of demons in recent memory. The demons in The Nun have zero reason to be doing any of the things they do. What do they want from the humans they’re terrorizing? Hands reaching out of the darkness is a bit creepy, but if it keeps happening with no stakes, it becomes boring, which is something demons should never be.
You may flinch at some jump scares in The Nun, but only because your survival instincts tell you to recoil when something is sudden and loud, not because the movie earns your fear. If you laugh when someone tickles you, that doesn’t make them funny; similarly, if you jump at a jump scare, that doesn’t make the movie scary. Skip this one.
R, 96 minutes; Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX, Violet Crown Cinema
Playing this week:
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema 377 Merchant Walk Sq., 326-5056 z BlacKkKlansman, Crazy Rich Asians, Kin, Mission Impossible: Fallout, Operation Finale, Peppermint
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213 z Alpha, BlacKkKlansman, Christopher Robin, Crazy Rich Asians, God Bless the Broken Road, Kin, The Little Stranger, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, The Meg, Mission Impossible: Fallout, Peppermint, Searching
Violet Crown Cinema 200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000 z BlacKkKlansman, Christopher Robin, Crazy Rich Asians, Juliet, Naked, The Meg, Mission Impossible: Fallout, On Chesil Beach, Operation Finale, Searching