23 Sep 10 Problems I Have With The Nun Movie
The Nun, the latest spin-off in The Conjuring universe, was released at the start of September. Focused on the origin story of the demon nun Valak (The Conjuring 2), I had my reservations when it was first announced. The horror genre is a pretty barren wasteland when it comes to mainstream cinematic releases so I get pretty psyched for any upcoming horror offerings. Although, I must say, Hereditary back in July gave me more than enough to keep me going for a long time. I don’t scare easily but I still get freaked out just remembering that film.
However, as time went on and sneek peaks were starting to roll out, I warmed to it and even started to get excited for its release. It might not be fantastic, I reasoned, but I was sure I’d enjoy it. After all, I found Valak to be truly terrifying in The Conjuring 2. I love horror films that have a killer or supernatural entity that makes you recoil in horror. I was such a fan of Valak’s horrifying look that I dressed up as him/her/them/it last Halloween. It was quite the ensemble as you can see. I also ran into another Valak. We put our differences aside and joined forces.
I was so excited to see The Nun, to be back in The Conjuring universe, to recoil in horror from Valak and get freaked out by the undoubtedly horrible origin story.
However, my hopes for it were dashed. I was extremely disappointed.
I’m of the belief that if you don’t have anything good to say then you’re probably better off not saying it, but this film was just so audaciously bland that I’m still reeling. I need to get it off my chest.
Without further ado, here are my 10 problems with The Nun movie. I am not holding back, there will be spoilers. If they can even earn the title “spoilers” because there is basically no plot.
1. It didn’t make the most of its creepy Romania setting
I read up on The Nun prior to its release and loved the fact that it was to be set in a cloistered abbey in Romania. How creepy. Immediately, I had images of the Carpathian mountains, small villages in the Romanian countryside, warnings from the village folk. Basically, a homage to Jonathan Harker’s journey to Transylvania.
One redeeming part of The Nun was the abbey, the ancient Castle Corvin in rural Romania, ticking all the boxes for a traditionally creepy setting. It feels remote and the misty graveyard in the grounds is filled with crumbling headstones and inverted crucifixes.
However, it lacked the classic trope of the outsider entering ancient lands. It felt remote but there were no encounters with village folk (apart from a French-Canadian who happens to live there) who would be adequately placed to give a sense of the dark history behind the abbey and village.
This movie is set in Romania but there are no Romanian people in it. Seemingly the only local in the secluded Romanian village is a French-Canadian. Why could it not have been a Romanian local? Why set it in Romania at all? I know that the classic narrative of the outsider arriving in a remote village and getting warded off by the locals is a tale as old as time but I love it if it’s done well. I feel the creators of The Nun realllllly missed an opportunity here.
It doesn’t end there though, the nuns in the abbey aren’t Romanian either. Not only does this make the film feel less authentic, it’s another missed opportunity at building tension and a sense of mystery through a language barrier . I also noticed that a sign on the door in the abbey said “Deliveries.” In English. This wouldn’t be the case in a Romanian abbey.
2. The nickname “Frenchie”
The guy who accompanies Sister Irene and Father Burke is known as “Frenchie” (Jonas Bloquet). Frenchie goes out of his way to ensure he gets called Frenchie. I don’t know if it was supposed to be funny or something but I cringed every time the name was said.
3. The fact that Frenchie is French Canadian
This just felt… particularly odd. Frenchie’s French-Canadian roots were referred to a number of times throughout the movie but it didn’t seem to really add any value to the plot. It felt like a pointless piece of information and left you wondering why a French Canadian would decide to move to a remote area of Romania to live by himself. Sister Irene does raise the question but it was something very vague to do with family.
4. Failed attempts at comic relief
At one point in the movie Valak screams something along the lines of “SO LONG FRENCH MAN!!!!” (shattering Valak’s sinister, silent shtick in the worst way possible, FYI) and Frenchie shouts back “ACTUALLY I’M FRENCH CANADIAN!” It’s a Marvel-esque, defiant, cheeky quip in the face of evil and it just falls flat on its face because no-one cares that he is from Canada. Apart from maybe Canadian people and even then his character is so lacking in depth that Canadians probably don’t care either.
5. VA 01 LAK number plate
At the beginning of the movie there’s a van and its number plate is “VA 01 LAK”. The shot lingers on this. You’re meant to notice it. Is it a nod to Postman Pat’s PAT 1 van? Or a terrible attempt at some kind of sinister foreshadowing?
6. Sister Irene’s mysterious connection to the abbey
The clergy at the Vatican outline that Sister Irene has a connection with the abbey in Romania and that’s why she is sent with Father Burke. However, what this connection is never gets revealed, it just hangs there limply. Even Sister Irene is confused as to what her connection is to the abbey as she tells Father Burke she’s never been to Romania. Father Burke’s sage counsel on this is (paraphrasing) “Ah, the Vatican has its reasons.”
Perhaps this connection will be revealed in The Nun 2: Livin’ La Vida Valak?
7. When Father Burke is buried alive and has a gravestone with his name on it
Unseen forces of evil sweep through the grounds of the abbey late at night and Father Burke, sensing something in the air, wakes up and goes outside to investigate. He then gets dragged into an open grave with an empty coffin inside; all ready for him. These are some very thoughtful, comprehensive forces of evil. They even go to the bother of preparing a headstone with “FATHER BURKE” carved into it.
I thought this was a nightmare sequence but it wasn’t, Sister Irene has to go and dig him up. I don’t understand what service this particular part of the story did for the movie. It wasn’t scary, it was just confusing and then turned out to verge on ridiculous when it becomes obvious that it isn’t a nightmare, which would have been its only saving grace.
8. Father Burke’s past
At intervals we are given the sense that Father Burke has a troubled past. Reminiscent of Father Marcus in The Exorcist tv show, he is a priest that tried to save a boy who was possessed but sadly failed. This back story is brought in at the wrong time, it interrupts the plot and feels like it has just been thrown in as a second thought. The ghost of the little boy joins the merry gang at the Abbey and it feels extremely disjointed.
9. Too many scenes involving Valak creeping up behind people
The Friday night screening I was at had its fair share of teenagers in attendance. I was prepared to hear screams and giggles at every little jump but I didn’t hear anyone have any audible reaction. Which I took as a bad sign. I guess cloaked figures skulking around in the shadows loses its scare factor after about the fourth variation of this kind of scene.
10. I am literally none the wiser about Valak’s origin
In The Conjuring 2 Lorraine Warren says that she thinks Valak has taken the form of a terrifying nun in order to scorn her Catholic religion and test her beliefs. Which makes me think that Valak is not technically a nun, it’s just the form that the demon has taken. This makes sense considering that Valak is a *deep breath* demon from the Lesser Key of Solomon, and for all you Hereditary fans out there, that book is where King Paimon resides too. The whole gang, eh! According to Wikipedia, Valak is “attributed with the power of finding treasures and opening gateways.” I didn’t do any more research because I was starting to get spooked.
At one point in The Nun, Sister Oana, one of the nuns who lives in the abbey finally gives us a very brief look at the back story that this movie needs so badly. She tells Sister Irene that the abbey was first owned by a Duke who practised black magic and satanic rituals. This must be why a creepy nun skulks in the shadowy corridors at night, Sister Oana posits. Astute.
Why was The Nun not about this mysterious duke who clearly unleashed Valak into the world? The movie is supposed to be about Valak’s origin but it’s actually just another story about Valak haunting people. I was much more interested in the back story of this Aleister Crowley-esque duke. This then could have been linked up with the abbey which was linked up with Lorraine Warren at the end of The Nun.
And there you have it, a detailed insight into just some of my problems with The Nun. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy any part of The Nun. It has creepy atmospheric music. There’s a very scary scene with the shadow of Valak moving around a wall. Mother Superior at the abbey is pretty horrifying. The scene with the nun hanging outside the front of the abbey is frightening. The scene with the nun’s body sitting upright in a freezer/pantry room is horrible. However, these in themselves don’t redeem the movie for me.
A closing note – when I was writing this post my laptop blinked black as I typed the correct spelling of Valak’s name. It freaked me out and I deleted the correct spelling because I am superstitious. I guess in a way I got the scare I missed from the movie.
Have you seen The Nun? What did you think?