Sunday, September 9, 2018

"The Nun"


God help anyone who sees The Nun.

Someone, somewhere must have committed an awful sin to result in The Nun, because sitting through it certainly is a major act of penance. I'll take Our Fathers and Hail Marys anytime over a punishment this severe.

The Nun is related to The Conjuring, but then again The Exorcist II: The Heretic was related to The Exorcist, and this movie is almost as bad as the notoriously awful 1977 sequel in which Linda Blair tap danced while Richard Burton looked ready to die from embarrassment.  About the only good news is that as far as "horror" movies go, The Nun isn't quite that bad, but it's pretty awful all right.

There are lots of scenes in The Nun. There is a lot of music. Also, the movie must have had the biggest dry-ice budget of any film in recent years.

The scenes don't fit together. The music doesn't match the scenes. The dry ice, however, is effectively used.

My favorite scene with the dry ice is when a handsome young foreigner living in Romania -- he speaks French and is even called "Frenchy," a name no movie that doesn't include the word Grease in its title should be allowed to use -- is whistling in the dark through a creepy cemetery.  He lights his way with a lantern.  The dry-ice smoke swirls menacingly around his feet.  And the whole thing is about as scary as it was back in the 1930s, when a scene like this was already long in the tooth.

It worked in Young Frankenstein because it was silly and had no intention of being scary.  It doesn't work in The Nun, when it wants to be scary and doesn't succeed at being silly, either.  Nothing in The Nun is scary, especially not all those scenes.

Let me explain for a moment about these scenes.  In a typical movie, they flow together in a more or less linear chronology, forming the film's narrative, the story that propels the action forward.  Not so in The Nun.  In this movie, the scenes relate to each other only in the loosest possible way -- they might contain the same characters, for instance, or those characters might say a few words that were previously spoken in the movie. But mostly the scenes seem to have been shot out of order, then edited together in an equally random way, in the vain hope that somehow they might end up creating a plot.

The basic structure is: A nun watches in horror as another nun is violently assaulted after she enters a door marked, helpfully (I guess), "God ends here." Quite a door to have anywhere, much less an abbey.  The nun who watched then commits suicide.  Frenchie (who, by the way, isn't French, he's -- wait for it -- French-Canadian) finds the body. Later, the Vatican decides to investigate, calling in a priest (Demián Bichir) who specializes in particularly loud and bass-heavy exorcisms. He is paired with a postulant nun (Taissa Farmiga, sister of Vera, who starred in the original Conjuring). The nun is chosen because she has visions.

They go to Romania. Frenchie takes them to the abbey.  He flirts with the young nun. He walks through a cemetery. He sees scary nun violence. The priest gets buried alive. The young nun manages to find him. They suspect maybe there is something bad going on. They split up to investigate further. The priest finds some weird books. The nun keeps seeing scary things. Awful things happen. From time to time, The Nun of the title (originally seen in the first Conjuring movie) pops up.

There are a lot of very loud sound effects to emphasize how scary it is. Eventually, everyone gets around to talking about a gateway to hell and imply that the hatred and violence of World War II somehow opened it up. Now, it's open again. That's why The Nun with the sharp teeth and pancake makeup keeps popping up.

See, the thing is, she isn't really a nun.  Whaaaaaaaaaaa?  She's evil!  Evil I tell you!  And she must be stopped!

Frenchie comes back, this time with a shotgun.  The young nun, who has come to Romania carrying only a tiny suitcase, finds a full nun habit to don and then decides she wants to take her vows, so just when they should be trying to close the gate to hell, everyone stops to watch her become a nun.

The Sound of Music was playing a couple of theaters down from where I saw The Nun, and I cannot lie, I wondered how these nuns would have solved a problem like Maria.  Likely with lots and lots of blood and even more dry ice.  And yet, I've gotta tell you, the scariest scream from The Nun is nothing compared with the cold and icy stare of The Baroness.  I'm pretty sure she could have closed that gate to hell with just one sharp word and left the demons feeling woefully inadequate.

The gate to hell closes.  The movie ends. There is a quick coda that flash forwards 20 years in which Frenchie, now apparently happily repatriated to his Canadian home, is seen as the subject of a study by psychics Ed and Lorraine Warren, so I guess the plan is to somehow relate stories back to the couple that started it all.  At best, it's a loose connection, but then, the whole movie is a loose connection, so it fits the mold.

The Nun left me wondering exactly how a movie about a young nun trying to close the gate of hell in an ancient castle in Romania could turn it to be bad.  How could you possibly botch that?  But they did, and how.  The Nun isn't merely awful; it's the worst movie of 2018.

Viewed Sept. 9, 2018 -- AMC Burbank 16


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