"The Nun" Continues Losing Streak For "Conjuring" Series Spin-Offs

While James Wan’s “Conjuring” films have thrived on emotion, eliciting fear on behalf of multi-dimensional leads played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, their spin-offs have been obligatory affairs. Corin Hardy’s “The Nun” is no exception, leeching off of Wan’s work to little effect. It may have atmosphere and loud jump scares to spare, but it’s as clinical as fright flicks come, sorely lacking in feeling, intractable in its lurch from setpiece to setpiece.

It practically dares us to care.

The lone exception is star Taissa Farmiga, younger sister of Vera. Her casting as the youthful Sister Irene gives the 1952-set movie a cool, cosmic connection to its predecessors, a fitting layer to Hollywood’s premier supernatural series. The idea of “The Nun” being a family affair is a neat one, but in practice Warner Bros. and Hardy give the younger Farmiga almost nothing to do but pinball between silhouettes of ghostly nuns; to drown in an ocean of impressive production values in service of absolutely nothing.

Scripted by Gary Dauberman who wrote the equally inert “Annabellefilms, the piece is a loose prequel to “The Conjuring 2,” extrapolating on the demonic nun figure that haunted Vera Farmiga’s Lorraine Warren. A priest, Father Burke (Demián Bichir), calls on the intrepid Sister Irene to accompany him to Romania to investigate a nun’s grisly suicide. Joined by a naïve French Canadian named Maurice (Jonas Bloquet) who discovered the dead body, the three inevitably uncover dark secrets at a creepy monastery.

Actress Bonnie Aarons, best known as the nightmarish bum from David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive,” reprises her role from “The Conjuring 2,” lending the now-title character all the malevolent energy anyone could reasonably ask for. But Aarons’ presence in the film is fleeting, Hardy and Dauberman largely saving her for a grand finale she can’t save.

Nothing here is quite heinous, but there’s an overwhelming sense of complacency that’s a total drag, another siphon on the goodwill of Wan’s work in the “Conjuring” universe. Hardy and his team pull off a single great jump scare, one that’s been given away in the pic’s trailers.

The rest are borderline desperate confluences of sight and sound so overeager to jolt audiences that they might as well come with attendant onscreen captions. There’s not a genuine surprise in all of the movie’s 96 minutes. Visit a haunted house instead, where you’ll find at least twice the thrills in a fraction of the time. Or revisit “The Conjuring 2,” a magnificently staged genre epic rich in characterization and hair-raising flashes of terror.

“The Nun” just plays like a tired game of horror movie bingo where the stakes are spare change and candy corn.

-J. Olson

Rating: ★★ out of ★★★★★ (Not So Good)

Release Date: September 7, 2018
Studio: New Line Cinema (Warner Bros.)
Director: Corin Hardy
Screenwriter: Gary Dauberman
Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Demián Bichir, Jonas Bloquet, Bonnie Aarons
MPAA Rating: R (for terror, violence, and disturbing/bloody images)