REVIEW: ‘The Nun’ abandons its storyline, leaving viewers with nothing but empty scares

Alex Novak

“The Nun” is a clear step down from the petrifying and critically acclaimed “The Conjuring” films, which provided coherent narratives and vivid horrors in both the original and second take.

A spin-off of the second film of the series, “The Nun” aims to keep the momentum of its predecesors. But in amping up the amount of jump scares, it trades off the eerie build-up the previous installments executed so well, forgetting the necessary cues the audience needs to connect the dots.

The narrative of the film struggles to stay consistent because of its sporadic pacing and a script that contains mostly illogical actions by the characters — often a shortcoming for horror films — which leads to hardly any character development.

The film tells the story of investigative priest Father Burke and Catholic novitiate Sister Irene, played by Demián Bichir and Taissa Farmiga, respectively. The characters are assigned to visit Romania to briefly investigate the recent self-hanging of a nun.

During their stay, they encounter strange occurrences from a powerful dark force roaming the castle at night, disguised as a nun called Valak, played by Bonnie Aarons.

Unfortunately, the audience and the movie’s characters alike seem to be left in the dark for most of the film. Both have no idea what they’re walking into, and once characters get a sense of it, they act irrationally and pay the consequences — a true letdown for viewers.

One of the few notable aspects of this film is the atmosphere; it creates an unsettling tone and supplements the dark themes that come with the territory.

Jump scares are particularly constant throughout, but ultimately lose their impact with awkward sequencing. The film’s storytelling often disrupts its many fast-paced scare scenes with calmer ones, resulting in the film never reaching its climax properly.

There are jump scares in almost every scene, which aim to do nothing more than frighten. This redundancy creates a pattern for viewers that, over time, lessens the effect.

Most horror films are made on the premise that this will make them better, but the best ones are often those with fewer expected gags and a stronger sense there are high stakes concerning the characters.

Instead of building on the danger characters face, “The Nun” only suggests kneeling in the middle of a room and praying as possible ways to avoid the terror.

Horror films that build tension and suspense — while also creating characters who make smart decisions to avoid possible doom — are often the best ones.

They incite panic slowly, which expands through the use of extended silence, camera angles, lighting and planned clues in the audio. Ultimately, this technique leaves the bigger scares for perfect moments.

“The Nun” doesn’t really add anything new creatively to the film series. It fits into the unnerving atmosphere, but it fails to find the same terrifying, blood-curdling effect its predecessors achieved.

Alex Novak is an entertainment reviewer. Contact him at [email protected].