“The Nun” was one of the more anticipated horror films of the pre-Halloween menu of movies this year. Previews depicted it as horrifically demonic and rooted in conflict between the earthly and the supernatural, the mundane and the sacred, between heaven and hell.
What moviegoers will get instead is a film full of jump scares, devoid of any plot, and cringeworthy dramatic structure. It didn’t instill a fear of evil and the demonic realm, which was likely part of its goal.
The film is set in 20th-century Romania, where the Carta Monastery has been haunted by a string of demonic activity, the latest being a suicidal hanging by one of the nuns at the monastery. The Vatican sends Father Burke and Sister Irene, who has yet to take her final vows, to investigate the case.
They are accompanied by Maurice, otherwise known as “Frenchie”, a layman whose lack of knowledge about monastic life is supposed to provide comic relief. But the film’s spare attempts at humor often make no sense, and its bizarre depiction of Frenchie’s romantic interest in Sister Irene falls miserably short.
As the story progresses, more demonic activity occurs at the monastery, often presented as sudden, jolting appearances by the Nun. These instances quickly become predictable, since they are often introduced with dim lighting, a low vocal drone, and eerie movement by otherwise inanimate objects.
The one bit of character development takes place in Father Burke, who is haunted by his own demons of exorcisms past. He reflects upon his harrowing experiences with demon possession at certain points during the film, adding a dose of humanity to the story.
Ultimately, the wandering plot builds up to a climax that, were it not for its terror, would be laughable. The ignorance to religious terms and references is evident throughout the film, especially in the rising action and conclusion.
For consumers who love horror movies for the sake of the adrenaline rush and leaping out of their seats, perhaps “The Nun” won’t disappoint quite so much. That it relies on jump scenes so heavily, however, makes it completely non-unique to the horror film genre.
All horror movies have jump scares, but what separates a worthwhile horror film is not the “scariness” of the scenes, but the “creepiness” of the plot. Good horror movies, like earlier installments of “The Conjuring” series, contain an element of pure evil interwoven in the plot that are well-crafted and unpredictable. “The Nun” lacks that essential characteristic to have the potential to be a classic horror film.