Horror isn’t dead, it’s just AWOL

Frances Partlett, Film Analyst

The Nun, written and directed by Corin Hardy, who made his directorial debut at Sundance 2015 with the well received horror film The Hallow; betrays his lack of experience. This is not to say that he did not make some interesting choices; rather that those choices relied heavily on spoon-fed jump scares or- more triumphantly- discordant religious iconography.


Owing most of its success to the portions of the film in which we do not see the titular figure, this movie tells the story of a Catholic priest and soon-to-be nun on a mission to expose a blasphemous entity in 1952 Romania. Lured to the gothic setting by the apparent suicide of a nun, Father Burke and Sister Irene seem content in merely asking questions or poking around places they shouldn’t really be. (Spoiler: everything isn’t as it seems, even though it does seem pretty damn suspicious).


The Abbey allows Hardy to show his flair for turning intimate spaces into abstract halls of terror; a scene comes to mind in which a Corridor of Crosses is turned on its head and engulfed in smoke, pulling Sister Irene towards the gaping mouth of impending doom. Pairing set design and choreography makes the ‘baghead’ scene dip into uncanny valley territory – why do I find this so disturbing?


Maybe the idea of suspect procession – in which a large amount of people mirror each other’s movements – has a part to play in why I find large groups of shroud- ed nuns moving around in predatory packs particularly unsettling. But then again, a habit can hide an awful lot. It is prudent to say, then, that I find more fright I find in this movie’s conceptual elements; for instance, the leitmotif of what I’m now dubbing ‘Valak’s Howl’ is a noise I cannot erase from my head no matter how hard I try.


Sister Irene steals the limelight with her delicate qualities complementing her not-too-frequent sparks of strength; making an easy-to- dislike character distinctly enjoyable.


I find myself in want. Of what, though? I find myself physically drained by the excessive use of predictable jump-scares; bored by the weak narrative that will do little to serve the ever-growing Conjuring universe; and thoroughly aware of every influence Hardy tried to evoke (City of the Living Dead etc). I suppose I am in want of what I got very little of: the unseen, the unusual, the things we see in the shadows. Because once you see the scary thing, suddenly it isn’t so scary anymore.


Overall, watching The Nun was like finally giving in and dating ‘the nice guy,’ it tried its hardest, but couldn’t exactly satisfy your every need. 6/10.