September 7, 2018 9:30 am

‘The Nun’ review: Pseudo-religious horror movie delivers some scares, but not much else

WATCH: 'The Nun' trailer

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For weeks (or months?) the public has been inundated with scary trailers and photos of The Conjuring 2 spin-off The Nun, to powerful effect.

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Religious horror is truly one of the scariest subcategories of the genre, and a traditionally wholesome figure — a nun — becomes infinitely more terrifying because of that purity. So it’s really easy pickings for first-time feature-film director Corin Hardy, who up until this point has helmed multiple short films and a TV show.

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The Nun has what you’d expect: creepy surroundings, an old Romanian abbey to get lost in, and of course, a gaggle of sinister sisters whose intentions are unclear.

Is it scary?

It probably won’t be the scariest movie you’ve ever seen, but yes, it’s scary enough. Aside from the several jump scares, the mood of the movie is dark and foreboding. In the ancient abbey, there are many shadowy corners and long hallways that you can’t see into, and that ultimately ups the ol’ heartbeat.

The things that detract from the movie’s scariness are the flimsy plot and its “connection” to the preexisting Conjuring movies. The connection is tenuous — and the filmmakers try at every turn to entwine The Nun into the canon — but somehow this feels like a standalone.

How are the actors?

Taissa Farmiga, who plays main character Sister Irene, has a face that’s made for horror (there’s a reason she keeps reappearing on TV show American Horror Story). With her wide eyes and angelic face, her fear is palpable and becomes our own. She’s accompanied on her journey to the abbey by Father Burke (Demián Bichir), an earnest priest who has his own long-standing connection to evil spirits, and comic relief Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), a traveller who shows them how to find the abbey.

Bloquet is surprisingly endearing and charming, and his much-needed laughs add levity to the dreary, at-times-laughable script. He actually lands his jokes perfectly, a true feat in a relatively serious movie.

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Laughable? What’s funny about an evil nun?

You wouldn’t think The Nun would have funny moments, but it does. Unfortunately, some are unintentional, but there are other self-aware lines that really add to the film. Some of the things that happen over the course of the movie’s 1.5-hour runtime come right out of the horror cliché book: people separate when they shouldn’t, characters conveniently forget horrific events that happened to them mere minutes before, they follow apparitions down and up stairs, into pitch-black rooms, etc. It was impossible not to laugh.

So what’s the bottom line?

If you’re a horror fan, you’ll most likely enjoy The Nun. It has its faults, but if you go with a bunch of friends or with someone just as passionate about horror as you are, there’s fun to be had. By Halloween, this movie will be tucked into the annals of horror sequels, though the lasting effect of scary nuns might increase the number of habits you see on the scariest night of the year.

‘The Nun’ is now playing in theatres across Canada.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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