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The Nun (2018)

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 12/4/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/10/2018

The 1970s and 1980s saw the rise of many of cinema's most influential horror movie masters, such as John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and Sam Raimi. Most of the time, they were working on shoe-string budgets, scraping by and adjusting their ideas to fit the amount of money available. Even when they had a hit, their budgets only increased slightly. What could those brilliant young minds have done with the backing of a major studio and larger budgets? Would they have created an inter-connected series of films, as James Wan has with "The Conjureverse"? Beginning with The Conjuring in 2013, we've seen a steady stream of these films, continuing with Annabelle, The Conjuring 2, and Annabelle:Creation. Just as the minor character of Annabelle was spun into a movie, we now get The Nun from The Conjuring 2, in her own film. Is she worthy of being in the spotlight.

The Nun opens in 1952 (the earliest point which we've seen in "The Conjureverse"). Following the suicide of a nun at a remote convent in Romania, The Vatician orders a priest named Father Burke (Demian Bichir) to investigate. He recruits a young nun-in-training named Irene (Taissa Farmiga) to join him, as she's been known to have religious visions. They arrive in Romania, where they ask Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), the man who discovered the body, to escort them to the convent. Upon arrival, they find a creepy, desolate place. Burke and Irene opt to stay the night in order to investigate. While Irene meets the friendly Sister Oana (Ingrid Bisu), Burke speaks with the mysterious Abbess (Gabrielle Downey). They both learn that an evil nun (Bonnie Aarons) haunts the abbey, wreaking havoc on those within. As they learn the secrets of this demonic presence, they fear that there is no way to stop it.

The movies in this series have presented a mixed-bag of quality, often related to the writing and overall creepy impact of the movie. And, averaging one movie per year, the law of diminishing returns was due to kick in at some point. As implied above, these movies offer a certain amount of polish and refine which reflects the fact that some actual money is behind them. And while The Nun continues that trend of good-looking movies, it's the first one where the movie feels rushed, which is sort of weird when one looks at the pedigree of the main character. The Nun was a last minute addition to The Conjuring 2, as Wan wanted to add more religious tones to the film. Although she only had a small amount of screen-time, The Nun was then catapulted into her own film. However, Screenwriter Gary Dauberman (working from a story which Wan co-wrote) doesn't really know what to do with the character. Thus, we get an origin for The Nun which is truly uninspired, followed by action sequences which only serve to reinforce the idea that "she's evil", but do nothing to truly advance the character.

Therefore, we get a story which borrows heavily from other movies, most notably Italian horror films form the 80s. The motivation for the entire plot and a scene in which Burke must be rescued from a trap are reminiscent of Lucio Fulci's City of the Living Dead (By which I mean lifted from.), and the creation of the abbey is similar to something from Michele Soavi's The Church. The way in which the evil is awakened seems clever at first, but then I realized that it reminded me of Guillermo Del Toro's The Devil's Backbone. The idea of going to a holy place to investigate a death and Father Burke's back-story mirror last year's The Crucifixion. And, the whole thing echoes all whole host of "Nunsploitation" movies from the 80s.

So, in-short, The Nun doesn't come off as feeling very original. That would be OK, if the movie had anything else to offer, but there's very little to work with here, in terms of story or characters. The movie's biggest sin (pun intended) is that it's never scary or creepy. There's a few shots from The Conjuring 2 at the beginning to remind of who The Nun is, and they are far more sinister than anything found in the movie itself. Once we've seen The Nun float down a corridor several times, she loses her power to be frightening. Director Corin Hardy relies too much on jump scares and never lets any sense of true dread flow into the film. In a series where the lackluster The Conjuring already set the bar quite low, The Nun proves itself to be a movie which has some promise, but can't deliver the goods. It certainly deserves a steep penance.

The Nun does nothing for Catholic recruiting on 4K UHD courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 70 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. When the film played in theaters, I'd seen some comments that it was a dark movie and that's certainly true. There are times here where it teeters on reaching a point where the action is not visible, but it's never overly dark. Still, I would recommend watching it with the lights off. Outside of that, the transfer brings us nice detail and depth. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround and stereo effects are very strong here, as they feed off of the film's claustrophobic feel. As the characters move through the abbey, we get sounds coming from off-screen oozing through the front and rear channels, with some being very nicely detailed. The subwoofer joins the fray during the "shock" and action sequences.

All of the extra features for The Nun are found on the included Blu-ray Disc. "A New Horror Icon" (5 minutes) is a somewhat brief featurette which gives an overview of the movie. We hear from Director Corin Hardy, Farmiga, and Screenwriter Gary Dauberman, along with James Wan, as they discuss the story, the nun character, and the actress behind The Nun. "Gruesome Planet" (6 minutes) takes us on-location in Romania, as Hardy guides us on a journey around the locations and describes the look and feel of the film. "The Conjuring Chronology" (4 minutes) offers an overview of the series and how the films fit together. The Disc contains seven DELETED SCENES which run about 12 minutes. These are mostly dialogue scenes, with no new subplots or characters, but The Nun does appear twice here.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long