I’ve procrastinated on this one, but a few weeks ago, I decided to partake in AMC Theaters’ Thrills & Chills gimmick. That is, you buy a ticket to an unknown film, only knowing that it’s a horror film. It could be a horror film from the 1950s or something more modern. A thrill indeed! My only reservation was: What if it’s a sequel to a film I haven’t seen yet? And it sort of was: 2018’s The Nun, which is technically in The Conjuring universe and I’ve only seen the first film. That said, I think The Nun stood on its own merits without me having seen the sequel (although now I really want to!).
The film follows a Catholic priest, Father Burke (played by Demián Bichir) and Sister Irene (played by Taissa Farmiga, who is actually the sister of Vera Farmiga, the star of the Conjuring films), a novitiate, meaning she hasn’t taken her vows yet as a nun, who are investigating the apparent suicide of a nun in Romania.
Three things I like about this film from the jump: 1.) That it’s set in Romania; 2.) That it’s set in the 1950s; and 3.) That it’s about exorcisms and demon possession.
I always enjoy a film that gets us out of our current location and time, and perhaps nothing gets under my skin quite like demon possession. Even though I’m not religious, there’s something about an entity or a demon taking over your body that gives me the heebie-jeebies. That’s why 1973’s The Exorcist remains the scariest film I’ve ever seen.
It turns out that the reason a novitiate was chosen by the Catholic Church to work alongside a priest experienced in exorcisms is that Sister Irene has had visions in the past. So, presumably, the Catholic Church officials thought she’d be well-suited to unraveling the mystery of the Saint Cartha’s monastery.
I thought this film was genuinely creepy and disturbing. There are quite a few scenes that stand-out, such as when Father Burke is buried alive and has to use the bell used during the plague days to ring his way to survival. Or when they talk to the Abbess, the female superior of the other nuns, who turns out to be dead already. Or when Sister Irene is praying away the evil with the other nuns, only to realize that she’s the only one alive.
And again, even though I’m not religious, I’m a sucker for something as monumental as using the blood of Jesus to ward off the evil. Only, I didn’t understand what happened here because Sister Irene had the blood of Jesus around her neck and yet, was still attacked and possessed by the evil demon. How is that possible?!
I also love tying the events at the monastery to real-life happenings, wherein it’s the bombings of WWII that unleashed the demonic force that the Catholic Church had kept at bay. War is hell, literally.
Frenchie (played by Jonas Bloquet), who discovered the nun who committed suicide, then tags along with Father Burke and Sister Irene. He was a great side character, who rescued Sister Irene, but ends up dying anyhow unfortunately.
Overall, despite the inconsistency I felt with the blood of Jesus, I thought this was a well-shot film by director Corin Hardy (in only his second film outing!) that got under my skin just enough to be creepy and disturbing, and it was superbly acted by Taissa Farmiga. Bravo to her for stepping into that role with aplomb.
I’m further shocked by the fact that apparently I wasn’t paying attention to the box office like usual in 2018 when this film made $117 million at the domestic box office, in addition to $248 million internationally, on a mere $22 million budget. No wonder the Conjuring universe of films has been so profitable. Wow!
If you’re into evil happenings, then I highly recommend this thrilling entry into the exorcism subgenre.