Aaah! Eeek! Director Corin Hardy lards on the frights so relentlessly that the moments don’t build to any sort of sustained narrative momentum in this prequel to “The Conjuring 2.” Rating: 1 star out of 4.
At one point in “The Nun,” a character is buried alive. Entombed in a coffin. Pounding and hollering. Help! Let me out!
That’s kind of what it feels like to be in the theater with “The Nun.” Especially the “Let me out!” part.
Entombed the audience is, entombed, I say, in horror-movie cliches. Grabby spectral hands burst up out of the ground or crash through locked doors. Dirge-like droning choral music dominates the soundtrack. Mood mist hangs heavy over unholy graveyards. Inky castle corridors are illuminated by a guttering torch and flickering candles. Heavy panicked breathing prevails and widened eyes fearfully stare.
From start to finish, there’s no relief from the oppressive onslaught.
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As for the title character … well, you’ve heard of the flying nun (Sally Field!), the singing nun (Tuneful!), even the boxing nun (Archie McPhee!). Now for your viewing pleasure comes the DEMON NUN WITH BLOOD-SOAKED FANGS!
Originally introduced in 2016’s horror hit “The Conjuring 2,” scenes from which bookend the start and finish of this picture, the character developed a following and prompted the producers to make a prequel. This is it.
The demon haunts an imposing Romanian castle that looks as though Dracula’s Transylvanian hideaway could be just down the road. To this spooky old pile, now housing an abbey, come a gruff-voiced exorcist named Father Burke (Demian Bichir) and a dewy novitiate named Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga, younger sister of Vera Farmiga, who starred in both “Conjuring ” pictures). Dispatched by the Vatican to investigate the circumstances of the suicide of a young nun at the abbey, they quickly discover demonic doings afoot.
Director Corin Hardy lards on the frights so relentlessly that the moments don’t build to any sort of sustained narrative momentum. Hesitant hands slowly pull back cloths covering shrouded figures to reveal … Aaaah! Looming in the shadows behind quailing interlopers are … Eeek! It’s all Aaaah! and Eeek! and on and on. It’s so choppy and predictable that it becomes laughable.
Long before “The Nun” is done, the audience may find itself thinking: Let me out!
★ “The Nun,” with Demian Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet, Charlotte Hope, Bonnie Aarons. Directed by Corin Hardy, from a screenplay by Gary Dauberman. 96 minutes. Rated R for terror, violence, and disturbing/bloody images. Opens Sept. 7 at multiple theaters.