An Average Movie-Goer’s Review
Spoilers! If you don’t want spoilers – check out the Spoiler-Free post
I love horror movies and if I’m going to watch them anyway, why not write an entertaining review from the POV of an average movie-goer and not a professional critic.
Today we’re looking at 2018’s The Nun, a prequel to 2013’s The Conjuring
After the body of a nun who committed suicide is found, The Vatican sends a specialist, Father Burke, and a nun in training, Sister Irene, to investigate. A demonic evil learns of their arrival and attempts to use them for its schemes.
The movie starts with a brief catch-up of the past Conjuring movies even though this movie is a prequel… but the catch-up only focuses on one demon, The Nun. Apparently, Ed and Lorraine Warren (the main characters of the Conjuring series) have been plagued with visions of it and have seen it in their home. Now we find out where it comes from.
We cut to 1952 at the Abbey of St. Carta, Romania. Two nuns, Sisters Victoria and Jessica, are walking along a fog-filled passage to a door with the words “God Ends Here” inscribed on it.
Sister Jessica enters while Sister Victoria prays just outside the door, stopping when she hears the sounds of Sister Jessica screaming. A bloody Sister Jessica crawls out from the door and tosses Sister Victoria a key. She tells her to run as the demon needs a vessel and will go after her next.
Sister Victoria runs down a hall into another room, locks the door behind her, and grabs a rope. She opens a window and asks for forgiveness for the sin she is about to commit as a force opens the door behind her. We then see the Demon-Nun walking toward her.
Sister Victoria takes one last look at the Demon-Nun, puts the rope around her neck, and jumps out of the window, hanging herself. Sometime later her body is discovered by Maurice AKA Frenchie (played by Jonas Bloquet) leading us to the title card.
We open with Father Burke (played by Demián Bichir) in the Vatican City. He is given an assignment by several Bishops who order him to investigate why Sister Jessica took her own life. Father Burke suspects the Bishops are hiding something but they deny it. They then tell him he will be guided by Sister Irene, who is being assigned to him because of her familiarity with the territory.
We cut to Sister Irene (played by Taissa Farmiga) teaching a class of students about dinosaurs, controversial because they’re not in the bible. But, Sister Irene is progressive and believes in science and religion. For a second I thought we were watching an inspirational coming-of-age drama but Father Burke then arrives to take Sister Irene to the bad place in Romania.
Sister Irene questions why she was chosen to guide him and he tells her it’s due to, as the bishops put it, her familiarity with the territory but she reveals she’s never been to Romania.
We cut to Frenchie, who is having nightmares of blood rushing out of the abbey, woken up by Father Burke and Irene knocking on his door. He tells them everyone in the village pretends the abbey doesn’t exist and, after some persuading, he agrees to take the two there.
Though they travel some distance by horse-drawn carriage they have to walk the rest of the way as the horse refuses to go further. Frenchie tells them the locals and the horse consider the area cursed and are afraid of wandering in.
We learn Father Burke is essentially a “miracle hunter” only sent on assignments to investigate supernatural phenomena. He also has a second objective, he is to ascertain if the grounds of the abbey are still holy.
Arriving at the abbey, surrounded by graves and hundreds of crosses, Frenchie tells them he put the body of the nun in the ice house for preservation. He also says she is the first nun he’s ever seen at the abbey despite delivering supplies for years.
They enter the ice house and see the body sitting on a bench. Before Burke could proceed, Frenchie stops him and tells him that’s not how he left the body. Burke finds the key Sister Victoria was holding when she died and they give her a proper burial.
The three approach the abbey and see the spot where Sister Victoria died noticing her blood is still fresh, despite it being weeks since the suicide.
They enter finding all the candles lit and, after searching the first room, Irene notices the Abbess or head nun just sitting there, hanging out and not saying anything.
Irene finally speaks and Abbess (played by Gabrielle Downey) asks them what they want. They tell her they were sent by the Vatican regarding the dead nun but she appears to not know what they are talking about.
Burke requests to speak with the rest of the Sisters in the abbey to assure the Vatican the place is still holy. She tells them they’ll have to wait until tomorrow as they are about to take their vow of silence but offers them rooms at the convent to spend the night.
Oh, and by the way, the entire time she speaks to them, she’s covered in the black cloth and no one seems to mind.
Burke tells Frenchie to come back for them in a few days as they should have everything they need by then. Frenchie, more than happy to leave the area, bids them farewell and heads off.
On his way back to his horse, night has fallen, and he sees a nun in the far distance. He calls out to her and, for some reason, walks closer to her. From behind another tree, another nun walks out and past him, this time holding a noose.
He runs towards her but she disappears behind another tree. She then appears above him hanging herself.
The body falls on Frenchie, its face rotted and monstrous. He throws it to the side and after it disappears, he runs away.
We cut to Irene and Burke talking over dinner. We learn Irene used to have visions when she was a child that always ended with a thought, “Mary points the way”. Burke tells her of a previous assignment of another child, Daniel, who had visions in France but was also possessed. After performing an exorcism the boy died and now Burke holds himself responsible.
That night a radio turns on waking up Burke who goes to investigate. Though the music turns off as soon as he shines a light on it, he sees someone rush past and into the field of crosses. Following after, he discovers it’s the ghostly spirit of Daniel who then vomits a large snake. The snake chases after Burke who falls into an open casket in a grave.
The casket closes and we pan out to see the gravestone says “Here Lies Father Anthony Burke”, and the ground above it is unbothered, even covered in grass.
Back at the convent, Irene feels a presence and wakes up. While searching she doesn’t see the Demon-Nun standing in the distance. She spots a shadow appear behind a large cross and walk around her manifesting in a mirror. It disappears, but when she turns around we finally see the Demon-Nun’s face as she grabs onto Irene in a jump scare.
The mirror shatters and the cross falls breaking as Irene runs out of the convent. She then hears Burke ringing the bell attached to his casket but, when she arrives at the graveyard, the demon makes all the bells on the gravestones ring. Irene is able to channel a vision and finds the correct gravestone.
Using a nearby shovel, she digs him out just as a demon grabs him from within the casket. It’s revealed under him, in the casket, were bones and several books that he thinks might help them figure out what’s going on. How convenient and also why would the demon put the books there?!
The next morning they go back to the abbey finding more fresh Sister Victoria blood on the steps. Burke gives Irene the key he took from Victoria’s body and sends her to find the abbess alone. Why did they split up? It’s the worst idea in any horror movie and they are well aware that there are demons around!
Irene finds Sister Ruth praying in a chapel and attempts to speak with her but is stopped by Sister Oana who tells her she can’t interrupt a prayer. She introduces herself and they leave together.
We cut to Frenchie, now back in the town, in a tavern where he discovers a woman’s daughter committed suicide by hanging. The bartender tells him whatever evil is in the abbey is leaking out and the two people Frenchie brought there the day before will soon end up dead.
Back at the abbey, Burke is researching and finds a drawing of the demon that is attacking them; Valak: The Defiler, The Profane, The Marquis of Snakes… Official title. After saying its name aloud the gated door behind him closes, separating him from the rest of the abbey and Irene.
Inside, Sister Oana and Irene are discussing Victoria’s death but she also informs Irene that the rest of the sisters do not want them talking due to privacy concerns. Oana tells Irene the history of the abbey; it was built by the Duke of Saint Carta in the dark ages to summon something from Hell.
We see a flashback where the Duke has written multiple books on witchcraft and rituals and succeeded in opening a gateway to Hell, where something rose up. But the church’s army broke into the abbey and sealed the gateway with a relic that contains the blood of Christ.
After killing the Duke, the church took the abbey and enlisted nuns to pray perpetually to prevent the evil from escaping. The tactic worked until, during the war, several bombs hit portions of the abbey cracking the gateway.
Irene tells Oana of the nun she saw the night before, for some reason leaving out the whole “came out of the mirror” part and, more importantly, the demon shrieking but whatever. Oana tells her they have all seen her and fear it means the demon has escaped. At this point; no shit.
Sister Abigail walks and instructs Oana to go do her prayers. She also tells Irene to leave but Oana says she won’t be able to since the gate is down and won’t open again till tomorrow.
Oana then brings Irene to a room that happens to be the same room Sister Victoria jumped out of a window from at the start of the movie. Oana leaves and locks Irene in the room so not weird at all…
We cut back to Burke, now looking at a map of the abbey, trying to find an alternate route around the gated door. From behind, he hears the Abbess telling him he won’t find a way around the gate. He turns around, sees her sitting there, and doesn’t say anything about how she wasn’t there a moment ago or even a casual “what the fuck?”.
The Abbess tells him the abbey has a dark past but they have repented. With no further questions on that for some reason, Burke tells her they found Sister Victoria holding a key and asks if she knows what it’s for. The Abbess tells him it’s too late and that “Sister Irene is lost”. She then falls limp on the chair and Burke’s candles go out.
Burke reaches over to her, opens her veil as her dead, decayed, and withered arm reaches out and grabs him. He jumps back and the arm, still holding onto him, easily snaps off of the abbess. Burke pulls it off his arm and throws it on the ground, when he looks up, the Abbess has disappeared.
Later, a storm has rolled in and Irene wakes up from a vision where she is dead or possessed. She sees a nun praying at the opposite end of her room. Upon approaching, the nun disappears and Irene sees the spirit of Sister Victoria redoing her death by jumping out of the window.
The room door opens and we see the Demon-Nun standing at the end of the hall but Irene doesn’t see it before it disappears. Irene then hears someone asking her to follow them. After wandering the halls, she finds the “God Ends Here” door from the beginning which opens on its own and blows out her candle.
Valak: The Defiler, The Profane, The Marquis of Snakes (played by Bonnie Aarons) appears behind the door and attempts to pull Irene in. After the door closes, Valak: The Defiler, The Profane, The Marquis of Snakes breaks through and chases Irene.
Oana pulls Irene into a small opening, tells her to grab her things, and meet her in the chapel where they will pray as it’s the only thing that will keep them safe from the growing evil. Irene arrives at the chapel and finds Sister Abigail praying with a dead body nearby.
Removing the cloth, Irene sees a dead Sister Oana who has crucifixion wounds on her hands. We quickly cut to Father Burke being haunted by the dead Daniel who leads him to a crypt and then transforms into Valak: The Defiler, The Profane, The Marquis of Snakes.
We cut back to Irene as the doors to the chapel open, allowing an army of nine nuns to enter and barricade the door. Sister Ruth tells Irene they have to all pray and no matter what she sees or hears, she cannot stop.
All the nuns except for Irene are launched across the room. Irene stops for a moment but continues praying.
We cut to Burke who is making his way to the “Deliveries” room, remembering that Frenchie told him there is an entrance to the abbey there. Before he can go into the room he’s blocked by a zombified Sister Victoria.
Frenchie appears with a shotgun and saves Burke by swinging at the zombie and decapitating her. Even in the 50s, they knew to go for the head.
Back with Irene, the three nuns who are still alive return to their positions and continue praying while the demon rips Irene’s robe and carves a pentagram on her back.
Irene hears Burke pounding on the door and she stops praying to go open the door. How did she know it wasn’t a trick from the demon especially since she was instructed to not stop for anything?
Anyway, Burke and Frenchie enter and Irene tells them they’ve all been praying to help keep out the evil. Burke looks towards the room and asks “Whose been praying?”
Irene turns around and in a great twist, it’s revealed the room is empty with only the dead body in the corner. All the other nuns have been visions this whole time. Irene pulls the cloth off of the dead body and finds the long-decayed corpse of Sister Oana. This means the nuns she’s been hanging out with are the ghosts of long-dead nuns who used to walk the church grounds.
The corpse wakes and stabs Burke in the side with a cross. The three hold her down as Burke performs an exorcism on it. The cross ignites, causing the corpse to ignite and rise to attack. Frenchie then shoots it and kills it.
The three realize Sister Victoria was the last one left alive and killed herself in order to prevent the evil from escaping as the demon needs a physical body to escape the abbey. They then prepare to enter the catacombs and find the relic to seal the evil.
Arriving at the catacombs they see a statue of Mary that points to a hidden door where they use Sister Victoria’s key to open a small passage revealing the relic. A bit Resident Evil with Indiana Jones also it was super easy.
Burke grabs the relic and places it around Irene’s neck. The group then make their way to the gateway beyond the “God Ends Here” door.
They then split up! What the fuck, they’re going to the same place!
Of course, they all get lost, separated from each other, and are each jump scared by the demon. After running from some faceless ghost nuns, Irene finds a room and walks towards a candle that ignites itself.
As she approaches, several candles all around her ignite revealing she’s stepped into the center of a pentagram. Multiple nuns’ faces covered in bloody burlap sacks appear in front of her and the doors shut.
Frenchie arrives just in time to see the doors slam in his face and he starts trying to break in. Using his shotgun he blasts a hole and opens the doors, finding the bloody nuns all around the room but no Irene. He then hears Irene’s voice asking him for help and he proceeds into the room.
After proceeding into the room, the nuns all turn and leave, revealing a floating Irene in the center of the pentagram with her head covered in a bloody burlap sack. Frenchie prays and rushes over pulling the sack off of her but it’s revealed that Valak: The Defiler, The Profane, The Marquis of Snakes has possessed Irene.
Demon Irene launches Frenchie across the room, grabs his shotgun, and is about to shoot him but gotta monologue first.
While Demon Irene gloats, Frenchie grabs the Christ blood relic on Possessed Irene’s chest, puts some blood on his hand, and smears it on her face causing Valak: The Defiler, The Profane, The Marquis of Snakes to exit her body. Irene and Frenchie run but Valak: The Defiler, The Profane, The Marquis of Snakes grabs Frenchie and launches Irene into a pool of water in another room where the relic breaks off of her neck.
Burke arrives but is attacked by Daniel who vomits another snake that bites Burke in the eye. Valak: The Defiler, The Profane, The Marquis of Snakes chokes Frenchie unconscious and appears in the pool in front of Irene. It then begins to strangle her before she can reach the relic.
Burke enters the water and starts performing an exorcism but is launched across the room by Valak: The Defiler, The Profane, The Marquis of Snakes. Possibly because Burke was the only person Valak: The Defiler, The Profane, The Marquis of Snakes hadn’t yet launched across the room in this movie.
The distraction gives Irene enough time to grab the relic while still underwater and being strangled by Valak: The Defiler, The Profane, The Marquis of Snakes. She bites the glass pouring the blood into her mouth and pretends to die.
Valak: The Defiler, The Profane, The Marquis of Snakes lifts her and Irene spits the blood onto it’s face causing it to burn away. The pool of water is also revealed to be right above the gateway… conveniently.
Irene falls unconscious into the water but is saved by Frenchie who gives her mouth-to-mouth and saves her. The following morning the three celebrate and leave the abbey but as they ride off we see an upside-down cross appearing on Frenchie’s neck.
We cut to 20 years later at Massachusetts Western University, Wakefield where we see some recut footage of the first Conjuring film during Warren’s presentation of an exorcism. Some lines are cut and Frenchie’s face is digitally added to the person being exorcised, this connects The Nun to the Conjuring and we end the film.
While not as good as The Conjuring, The Nun has more comedic and lighthearted moments thanks to the chemistry between the three characters. Unsurprisingly the acting is good, and the dialogue works and feels natural.
The overall story itself is pretty good and there aren’t any holes in its logic but I can’t say the same for the character’s decisions. They make some pretty dumb decisions mainly the splitting up, had Burke and Irene stuck close together half of this movie wouldn’t exist.
The final twist where all the nuns are actually dead is well done and was completely unexpected. Also while the atmosphere is great and creates tension, the final set piece is jump scare after jump scare and they lose their effectiveness very quickly.
Valak’s abilities are also not completely defined, at one point it can create an entire buried grave to bury Burke and then cover it but never uses a power like that ever again. Valak also suffers from a common trope wherein the main monster has no problem killing minor characters but for the main characters, it instead knocks them out.
The easter egg connecting it to The Conjuring, while cool, doesn’t actually make sense. Valak’s grand plan was to lie in wait for 20 years? Of course, if The Nun sequel ever gets made, this may make more sense retroactively.