‘The Nun’ Offers Unholy Fright After Fright

If Hollywood films offer any real indication, the road to becoming a nun is often a bumpy one, and young novitiate Irene (Taissa Farmiga) has an especially challenging go of it in the horror thriller “The Nun.” This isn’t exactly “The Sound of Music,” as we see in the first scene, in which a young nun, Sister Victoria (Charlotte Hope), takes drastic measures while being pursued by a supernatural force at her abbey in 1952 rural Romania. The next day, her body is discovered by a French-Canadian deliveryman, the aptly-named Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet). News of the young woman’s mysterious demise makes it back to the Vatican, and what transpires is a film full of jump-scares and other frights. And as most of the action takes place within the walls of a creepy old abbey, there’s a religious theme, but by no means is this a film that takes itself too seriously.

The fifth film in the franchise of “The Conjuring,” “The Nun” explores the backstory of Valek (Bonnie Aarons), the demonic nun first seen in “The Conjuring 2.” Vera Farmiga, Tessa’s real-life sister, shows up in a few flashforwards as paranormal investigator Lorraine Warren, bringing the story full circle. However, the viewer is still left with questions at the end, making a sequel all but certain. Irene, who is introduced here as a free-thinking Catholic school teacher in London, is a compelling enough character, at least more intriguing than Father Burker (Demián Bichir), the priest she is paired with by the Vatican to investigate the happenings in Romania. The priest, of course, is in charge of the operation, but Irene’s being of the fairer sex has its advantages here, as she has more access to the cloistered nuns. She was selected for this mission for reasons that at first seem vague, while Burke is looking to redeem himself after a failed exorcism some years earlier. The still-recent horrors of WII also play a role here, as the bombings had a devastating effect on the abbey, to say the least.

Once in Romania, Burke and Irene team up with Frenchie, who brings the comic relief, beginning with his attempting to flirt with the young Bride of Christ upon their first encounter, as he is initially blissfully ignorant of her vocation. Director Corin Hardy and screenwriter Gary Dauberman sure do a great job here of putting the trio through the ringer, as evasive nuns prove to be the least of their problems. Early on, one of the leads ends up temporary buried alive, and that’s just the beginning. While probably not an accurate representation of convent life, “The Nun” is a visually stunning film, full of plenty of quality special effects. The make-up department also deserves props for making the already scary Aarons even more terrifying.

With the script not being tightest and a story that probably won’t inspire any deep contemplation, “The Nun” is miles away from the classic it was in least in part expired by, “The Exorcist.” However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable in a guilty pleasure kind of way, and Taissa Farmiga gives a solid performance.

The Nun” opens Sept. 7 nationwide.