Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Nun


1952, Romania. A convent high atop the hills is haunted by a malevolent entity in the guise of a terrifying nun. The nun is actually a demon which goes by the name of Valak (Bonnie Aarons), a designated president of hell. First summoned by the original owner of the abbey during the middle ages, the unspeakable evil has been kept at bay with the intervention of the Catholic Church, which claims the property for its own. Through perpetual adoration, a round the clock prayer accomplished by the sisters in shifts, the entity grows weaker. However, this endless invocation is interrupted when the bombs of war fall over the country. When one of the nuns commit suicide, she is found by Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), a French-Canadian herder who supplies the abbey with charcuterie. A report is made to the Vatican, which sends the duo of Father Burke (Demián Bachir) and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) to investigate.

I had to scream in one of the scenes, which I know is embarrassing as fuck. Hey, this feels more like a montage of jump scares than a movie with an actual plot, okay? There is a thin line between horror and fantasy, and this one comes this close to crossing that line. The only other film I can think of for comparison is Drag Me to Hell, which had me jumping on my seat and laughing my ass off at the same time every two minutes or so. But that Sam Raimi classic was a B-Movie that embraced all campiness for a hilarious and suspenseful cinematic experience, something that The Nun just can’t emulate because it is part of a bigger franchise that has established a more serious tone, not to mention box office clout.

But we were all laughing together, perhaps because we all knew that we looked like complete idiots in that cinema. The Nun is fun and exhilarating, I’d give it that, but the story easily runs thin and it is clear from the get-go that this is just a cash cow for the franchise more than anything else. The steep drop in its box office numbers during its second weekend also goes to show how people rushed to see it out of intrigue, perhaps looking for an explanation as to why this nun is so terrifying and why she is a nun in the first place. The only explanation for her appearance is for her to be able to blend in, nothing more.

If you know your basic demonology, then you should be well aware that Valak, or Valac, or Volach, never manifests itself as a nun. In terms of physical appearance, at least based on the description found on the Lesser Key of Solomon, this demon takes on the form of a winged cherub-like boy mounting a two-headed dragon. You summon him to find treasures and open gateways, not terrorize a bunch of clueless nuns. The only aspect that the film version remains loyal to is the demon’s power over serpents.

There are no after-credits scenes, but there is an epilogue that shows the direct transition from The Nun to The Conjuring. If you haven’t seen either film and you want to do so chronologically, then it would be better to see The Nun first before continuing your movie marathon with The Conjuring. With the opening sequences lifted straight from The Conjuring 2, it feels like the franchise has come full circle this time around, with that very epilogue serving as some sort of justification for the Valak – Lorraine connection.

In the end, the titular nun might as well be Sister Irene herself who decides to transition from novitiate to full time nun so she can battle the evil demon with her full religious powers, whatever that might be. Perhaps the question we should be asking is whether she is related to Lorraine Warren, maybe not in real life but at least in the bigger universe that the film is part of. After all, the two actresses are sisters for real. In any case, kudos to Farmiga for portraying the role con mucho gusto and for giving Valak the requisite metaphysical bitch-slapping that she deserves for being such an attention-seeking prick.

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