Does The Nun conjure up enough scares?

The highly-teased and anticipated spinoff to The Conjuring 2 has finally landed in cinemas, but is The Nun as terrifying as its banned YouTube trailers have us believe?

The film opens in 1952’s Romania, with two very brave and very scared nuns trying their hardest to hold back a strong evil (at this point, we’re unsure of exactly what) from escaping the grounds of the Cârța Monastery. Sadly, Nun 1 quickly meets her demise, and Nun 2 decides that becoming the human vessel used to carry out unholy deeds is a far worse fate than death.

Days later, her body is discovered and reported back to the Vatican in Rome. They decide to send Father Burke (Demián Bichir), a Catholic priest and undertaker of exorcisms, and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), a novice nun with the power of visions, down to the convent to get to the bottom of the mess.

The rest of the movie plays out like a horror maze: every corner of the monastery’s grounds is a play space for dead nuns, dead children, dark spirits and other evil. The character development of Sister Irene seems to be as important, if not more so than the story of The Nun, Valak, and we see Irene’s goodness and commitment to God rise as her situation becomes more and more dire and dangerous.

With flashbacks of The Conjuring 2 still haunting my dreams, I had expected another 90 minutes of pure blood-curdling terror from The Nun, but that wasn’t quite what I got. The repulsive, detailed, nightmare-inducing face of ‘The Nun’ was not shown nearly enough, and despite a rollercoaster of both snappy and slow-burning scares, it fails to stand out from the crowd of other religion-based horrors. I jumped a number of times but barely had to look away from the screen – something I had to do constantly in previous movies in the franchise.

What the film failed to do to my heartbeat, it did make up for with set design eye candy. Director Corin Hardy delivers breathtaking visuals that make you want to meticulously study the screen until you remember something could be lurking in its dark shadows. At times The Nun indeed is a picture that delivers us to evil.

Overall it’s a visually stunning film, albeit one of a dark and acquired taste, that deserves to be seen on the big screen. Not quite as scary as the others in The Conjuring series, but The Nun will most likely still make an appearance in your nightmares.

Reviewed by Ashleigh Davis.

3.5 stars small