THE NUN (2018) Is Not Fun

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the nun

THE NUN (2018) has one major thing going for it: atmosphere.

And that’s because it was shot on location in Romania, and so you have enormous ominous castles and an Old World countryside that is ripe with superstition and evil spirits. In terms of setting, you can’t get more authentic. It’s so rich in atmosphere it brought me back to the Hammer Films of yesteryear.

And yet it’s all for naught because unfortunately, sadly, in spite of this being an atmospheric gem, the rest of the film is unbearably awful.  As in really awful.

What a shame.

This one would only have needed a halfway decent story, and direction that just allowed the story to flow without getting in the way, and yet the writers and director here couldn’t even do that.

Again. A shame.

THE NUN is the latest film to take place in THE CONJURING (2013) universe.  THE CONJURING of course is the well-received horror movie by director James Wan, and a film that I liked a lot, that told the story of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. It was followed by THE CONJURING 2 (2016) and a pair of ANNABELLE movies featuring a scary doll which first appeared in THE CONJURING.

Now we have THE NUN which features a scary demon from THE CONJURING 2  that looks like a nun.

And this nun demon which goes by the name of Valak is pretty scary looking, which is another thing this movie has going for it. This film actually has a few things going for it, which makes it all the more amazing that it’s so gosh darn awful!

The film opens in Romania in the 1950s at a cloistered abbey where we witness two nuns fighting an unseen demon. To prevent the demon from entering her body, one of the nuns hangs herself.

The action switches to the Vatican where a priest named Father Burke (Demian Bichir) is informed he’s being sent to Romania to investigate the suicide of a nun, with the implication being that there’s more going on there at the abbey because Father Burke has experience with exorcsims.  Burke is told he needs to bring a young nun with him, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) because she has experienced visions, and these visions will be of help to Burke in his investigation.

In Romania, Father Burke and Sister Irene interview the young man who found the body of the hanged nun, a man who goes by the nickname Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet) because he’s French. Duh.

So, Burke, Irene, and Frenchie go to the abbey and begin the investigation, which does not go well. Why, you ask? Because there’s a demon there of course! And this demon doesn’t like people poking around in his business, and so he does all the things audiences are used to seeing demons do in horror movies: makes loud noises, makes people see things that aren’t there, jumps out at people, and generally wreaks havoc all the while giving people in the CGI business jobs.

Yawn.

I’ve pointed out a couple of things THE NUN did well, but now it’s time to mention the things it didn’t do too well.

Let’s start with the special effects overkill.  There’s so much going on in the special effects department I felt like I was on the Disney Haunted Mansion ride. And when this happens, it kills any authenticity the film has. I didn’t believe any of it.

 

The story here has a lot of problems. The screenplay by Gary Dauberman creates very dull characters without any real sense of purpose. I’m still not sure what it was exactly that Father Burke was investigating or why exactly the Vatican wanted Sister Irene to help him. Additionally, I don’t really know what this demon was all about. Why was he possessing these nuns? It’s not like he’s actively trying to leave the abbey.  Is he a demon-homemaker who just wants to be left alone?

And the characters here have zero depth and are all rather boring.

Demian Bichir, an actor I generally enjoy, looks serious as Father Burke, and he definitely carries himself with some presence, but he’s about as interesting as a rosary bead.

The far more interesting bit of casting is Taissa Farmiga as Sister Irene. Farmiga is the younger sister of Vera Farmiga, who played Lorraine Warren in THE CONJURING movies. Hmm. THE NUN takes place before the events in THE CONJURING, and here we have a character Sister Irene, who because she is played by Vera Farmiga’s sister, bears a strong resemblance to the Lorraine Warren character. Would there, I wondered, be some sort of connection between the two? In other words, would the filmmakers have used this potentially ingenious bit of casting to the story’s advantage?

In a word, no.

So much for that.

Anyway, Taissa Farmiga is very good as Sister Irene, but again, I didn’t know much about the character or understand what her visions had to do with the story being told here in this movie.

THE NUN was directed by Corin Hardy, and I can’t say that I was impressed.  The scares were practically nonexistent, and the pacing poor. For a film that clocked in at just over 90 minutes, it felt much longer than that, especially during its second half. It also featured far too many special CGI effects which did nothing but detract from its storyline.

The other thing I did like was the music score by Abel Korzeniowski, which certainly captured the whole possessed abbey feel with lots of religious undertones. You could almost see the chanting monks hovering in the damp dark corridors. Korzeniowski also composed the music for the PENNY DREADFUL (2014-16) TV show.

THE NUN actually gets off to a good start. The on-location shooting in Romania combined with Abel Korzeniowski’s effective music score easily lured me into the proceedings. And upon first meeting Father Burke and Sister Irene, and buying into the performances of Demian Bichir and Taissa Farmiga, I was definitely interested in joining them on their investigation into the mysterious occurrences at the haunted abbey.

But this investigation only led to lots quiet moments searching dark corridors and hallways, with ghostly encounters that made little sense, and demonic confrontations that featured over-the-top CGI effects that were anything but scary, and some pretty awful dialogue.

Yes, when it became apparent about two-thirds of the way through this one that its story wasn’t going anywhere, the film simply lost my interest and became flat-out dull and boring, which is too bad, because it really looks good.

What a shame that the filmmakers went all the way to Romania to make this movie but didn’t bother to bring a decent story with them.

And I don’t know about you, but I went to see THE NUN to see a horror movie, not a Romanian travelogue.

—END—

 

ANNABELLE: CREATION (2017) – Prequel to a Prequel Better Than Expected

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annabelle_creation_poster

ANNABELLE: CREATION (2017) is a prequel to a prequel.  It’s a prequel to a bad movie which was itself a prequel to a good movie.  Huh?  Let’s try that again.

ANNABELLE: CREATION (2017) is a prequel to ANNABELLE (2014), a pretty bad movie, which was itself a prequel to THE CONJURING (2013), which was a pretty good movie. And where does that leave ANNABELLE: CREATION?  Somewhere in between.  It’s better than the awful ANNABELLE but not quite as good as THE CONJURING.

In terms of quality, it reminded me a lot of another prequel to a bad movie, OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL (2016) which was a surprisingly very good prequel to the lowly OUIJA (2014).  Heck, the two movies even share the same star, child actor Lulu Wilson.

ANNABELLE:  CREATION takes place in the 1950s, as a group of girls from a Catholic orphanage and their sponsor Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) move into a new home, a farmhouse run by a retired doll maker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his ailing bedridden wife Esther (Miranda Otto). The Mullins lost their own daughter twelve years earlier and see opening their home as an orphanage for young girls as a way to instill some life back into their world.

The girls are ecstatic to be living in a new and very large home, but Samuel tells them that there is one room in the house that is always locked and that room is off-limits (of course.)  One of the girls, Janice (Talitha Bateman) enters the room anyway (of course, again) and immediately feels a strange presence there. She realizes it is the ghost of the Mullins’ deceased daughter Bee (Samara Lee). Janice also discovers the doll Annabelle hidden away in a closet, and she experiences a sense of dread. When Janice’s best friend Linda (Lulu Wilson) joins her in the room, she too senses evil, and that’s because there’s a demon inside the Annabelle doll that wants people’s souls.  Yikes!

The girls try to warn everyone in the house that there is something evil residing there with them, but by the time they do, it’s too late.

ANNABELLE: CREATION has a lot of good things going for it. The best part about it is that it delivers some pretty good scares and crafts some memorable horror scenes.  Credit director David F. Sandberg for a job well done when it comes to the scare department. Of course, the Annabelle doll is creepy to begin with, but interestingly enough some of the better scare sequences don’t even involve her. There’s a creepy bit involving a scarecrow, a suspenseful scene on a staircase chairlift, and yet another one in a creaky old-fashioned dumb-waiter.

Then there’s the demon. One of the more interesting parts of ANNABELLE: CREATION is that it sheds more light on the background of the Annabelle doll.  It seems that the instigator of all this evil surrounding Annabelle is a demon possessing the doll that wants people’s souls.  We catch glimpses of this demon, and he’s pretty cool looking, which is no surprise since he’s played by Joseph Bishara who’s becoming quite the expert at this sort of thing. Bishara played a demon in both the INSIDIOUS and THE CONJURING movies. He was most memorable in INSIDIOUS (2010) as the Lipstick-Face Demon.

There are lots of cool scares here, and that’s a good thing.  What’s not so good is the pacing.  There are a lot of slow parts in ANNABELLE: CREATION, lots of scenes where characters slowly move about in dark hallways, the kinds of scenes that drive me nuts in horror movies.  These types of scenes don’t build suspense. They put audiences to sleep.

And the film is just begging for a more frenetic pace during its third act.  While the movie’s conclusion isn’t bad at all, it never becomes that go-for-the-throat ending that makes audiences squirm and scream.

Director Sandberg does make full use of the creepy farmhouse interiors.  Most of the film takes place in dark rooms and hallways, and the atmosphere is sufficiently spooky and haunting.  The camera also gets in close, so much so you can almost smell the wood of the old hardwood floors.

Sandberg also directed LIGHTS OUT (2016), an okay horror movie that I wasn’t all that crazy about. I enjoyed ANNABELLE: CREATION more.

The screenplay by Gary Dauberman isn’t bad.  It tells a decent story and does a good job with its characters, who come across as real and likable.  I liked some of the reveals about Annabelle, and I enjoyed the characters, from the girls to Sister Charlotte to Samuel and Esther Mullins.  The dialogue isn’t always fresh, and the story Esther Mullins tells about what happened to her daughter is full of dumb lines and clichés.

Dauberman also wrote ANNABELLE (2014), and the second time seems to have been the charm, as his screenplay here for ANNABELLE: CREATION is much better and tells a far more interesting story than the previous film.  Dauberman also wrote the screenplay to the upcoming adaptation of Stephen King’s IT (2017), due out in September.

Talitha Bateman as Janice and Lulu Wilson as Linda are both excellent.  It was especially fun to watch them go through different levels of emotion.  At first, they’re joyful about their new home, then there’s quiet unease and building fear, and then flat-out visceral horror as the threat becomes real. And once the demon becomes involved, there’s also some icy cold evil, which Bateman does well.

This is already the third horror movie for young Lulu Wilson, as she previously starred in OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL (2014) and DELIVER US FROM EVIL (2014).

The rest of the girls in the film are also very good.

I also enjoyed Stephanie Sigman as Sister Charlotte.  She makes the nun a real person and prevents her from becoming a cliché.  Likewise, Anthony LaPaglia does the same for Samuel Mullins.  At times, LaPaglia plays things a bit too mournful, as he just sort of stares gloomily at the camera, but for the most part he does a nice job bringing Samuel Mullins to life.

Miranda Otto as Esther Mullins is in the film less than LaPaglia, and as a result has less of an impact, and unfortunately towards the end of the film she does get some of the worst dialogue in the movie.

In a small role, Mark Bramhall has some fine moments as Father Massey, the priest who drives them to the Mullins’ farmhouse and who returns later in the movie. He also gets one of the more humorous lines in the film.

The story ends with a solid tie-in to ANNABELLE.  The way screenwriter Gary Dauberman and director David F. Sandberg tie the two movies together is creative and satisfying.

I liked ANNABELLE: CREATION much better than I expected I would.  It’s a decent horror movie that rises above the muck of inferior sequels and prequels, yet it’s not quite as good or at the level of an INSIDIOUS or THE CONJURING, those horror movies that are destined to be remembered for years to come, the ones you want to watch over and over again.

I guess that would be asking too much from a prequel to a prequel.

—END—

Books by Michael Arruda:

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  

Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.

InTheSpooklight_NewText

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com.  Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.  

For The Love Of Horror cover

Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.  

 

 

 

THE CONJURING (2013) Unoriginal Scary Fun

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the-conjuring-posterMovie Review:  THE CONJURING (2013)

by

Michael Arruda

 

THE CONJURING (2013), the latest horror movie by director James Wan, the man who directed SAW (2004) and INSIDIOUS (2010), is a classic example of style over substance.

There is nothing original about the story this movie tells, and some of the plot points are downright silly, but you know what?  I liked it, mostly because it’s directed with gusto by Wan, and he gives this one an eerie edge throughout.

It’s the early 1970s, and the Perron family move into their new home, which of course is going to be haunted, in this case by a demon.  You know, for once I’d like to see a haunted house story not about a family moving into a new home.  Maybe the demon can move in for once.  You know, the family’s been living there for years, and then this demon shows up looking for a new start in its demonic life— well, I digress.

The Perrons are your typical family, led by truck driver dad Roger Perron (Ron Livingston), sporting a very 70s haircut, and stay-at-home mom Carolyn (Lili Taylor), and their five daughters, including the angst-filled teen who’s none too happy about moving into a new house, but to be fair, she stops complaining early on, so thankfully we avoid this cliché.

Strange things begin to happen in the Perron household (of course!), odd noises, foul odors, and unseen visitors, all of which eventually lead them to conclude that their home is haunted.

At the same time, the movie also introduces paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) a husband and wife team who go around the country helping people with their haunted houses and giving college lectures.

The movie tells parallel stories of both the Perron and the Warren families, until of course, Carolyn Perron contacts Ed and Lorraine and convinces them to come to her family’s house and take on the case.  And it’s here where the movie really takes off, when Ed and Lorraine arrive at the Perron home with their team, which includes another investigator Drew (Shannon Kook) and a police officer Brad (John Brotherton).

The rest of the movie follows this team’s efforts to identify the threat in the Perron household, and there are many—the house is occupied by anguished spirits and one very powerful demon— and then to protect the family and eventually exorcise the demon before it does what it wants to do, which is murder the Perron children.

I really enjoyed the cast in THE CONJURING, especially Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as the husband and wife investigator team of Ed and Lorraine Warren.  They’re a very believable couple.

The Warrens have a cool room full of relics which were once haunted, including a demonic doll introduced in the film’s opening segment, where we see the Warrens handle an earlier case.  As Ed tells an interviewer, they keep all these things rather than destroy them because they believe they’re able to contain the malevolent spirits this way.  Burn the objects, and the spirits will be released.  Nice thinking, although I question why they’d store these items in a room inside their home where their young daughter lives.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to house these things somewhere else?

Patrick Wilson makes for a very heroic and likeable lead as Ed Warren.  I like Wilson more each time I see him.  He played the dad in INSIDIOUS (2010), and he was also Night Owl in WATCHMEN (2009).

As much as I liked Wilson, I liked Vera Farmiga even more as Lorraine Warren.  As Lorraine, she’s just as strong and heroic as Wilson, but with the added vulnerability of having been attacked at an earlier exorcism, the details of which she refuses to divulge to her husband.  She’s also a clairvoyant, and she provides the main conduit for communicating with the spirits in this story.  She’s an interesting character.

Farmiga is currently starring in the TV show BATES MOTEL (2013-14), and she’s been in a lot of other movies as well.  She was memorable as the police psychiatrist Madolyn in THE DEPARTED (2006), the woman who becomes involved with both Matt Damon’s crooked cop and Leonardo DiCaprio’s mob infiltrator.  She delivers the best performance in THE CONJURING.

Lili Taylor is also very good as Carolyn Perron.  She does a nice job, at first playing the concerned mother, and then later, as the demon sets its sights on her, she gets to be the frightening possessed monster.  Taylor was one of the highlights of the otherwise underwhelming thriller THE COURIER (2012) in which she played an assassin named Mrs. Capo.

The five young actresses who play the Perron daughters are also all very good.

THE CONJURING has very little to say that hasn’t been said before, but there were things about the screenplay by Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes that I liked.  I definitely enjoyed the emphasis placed on the paranormal investigative team of the Warrens.  Their presence made the story much more interesting than had it been only about the Perron family tackling the ghosts on their own.  This was done to some degree in INSIDIOUS, but the Warrens are a much more compelling team than the investigators in INSIDIOUS.

The Perron family also remains believable throughout and avoids many of the cliché pratfalls of movie haunted house families.  As soon as the Perrons learn what’s going on, Roger wisely says “we have to get out of this house,” but Ed tells him that it’s not the house that’s possessed, but his family, and the demon would only follow him.  Again, this concept is not new (see INSIDIOUS) but it’s still handled well, mostly because the movie doesn’t insult our intelligence.

But the best part by far of THE CONJURING is the energetic direction by James Wan.  This movie is not at all graphic, and yet, it includes many frightening images and some decent scares.   As a horror movie fan, you’ve got to love it.  Some of the memorable images include a gruesome hanging body, a grieving spirit anguished over the death of its daughter, a creepy toy with a mirror in which you can see the face of a ghost, and who can forget the eerie demon doll sitting inside the locked glass cabinet of the Warren household?

This movie is chock-full of fun horror elements.

But is it scary?  Well, it’s not the most frightening movie I’ve ever seen, and sure, it could be scarier, but there are enough thrills and chills to keep most horror fans satisfied.

It also gets the pacing right.  Things start off slowly, but as soon as the Warrens arrive to investigate the Perron’s home, the movie cranks it up and never looks back.  This is how a movie should be paced.  It should get more intense as it goes along, which is exactly what happens in THE CONJURING.  That being said, the ending isn’t quite as satisfying as I’d hoped, but it’s still pretty darn good.

THE CONURING also has an excellent music score by Joseph Bishara, who also did the music for INSIDIOUS.

THE CONJURING is far from perfect, and it doesn’t have an original bone in its body, but it is one very fun very satisfying horror movie.  I definitely recommend it.

—END—

THE CONJURING (2013) Unoriginal Scary Fun

0

the-conjuring-posterMovie Review:  THE CONJURING (2013)

by

Michael Arruda

 

THE CONJURING (2013), the latest horror movie by director James Wan, the man who directed SAW (2004) and INSIDIOUS (2010), is a classic example of style over substance.

There is nothing original about the story this movie tells, and some of the plot points are downright silly, but you know what?  I liked it, mostly because it’s directed with gusto by Wan, and he gives this one an eerie edge throughout.

It’s the early 1970s, and the Perron family move into their new home, which of course is going to be haunted, in this case by a demon.  You know, for once I’d like to see a haunted house story not about a family moving into a new home.  Maybe the demon can move in for once.  You know, the family’s been living there for years, and then this demon shows up looking for a new start in its demonic life— well, I digress.

The Perrons are your typical family, led by truck driver dad Roger Perron (Ron Livingston), sporting a very 70s haircut, and stay-at-home mom Carolyn (Lili Taylor), and their five daughters, including the angst-filled teen who’s none too happy about moving into a new house, but to be fair, she stops complaining early on, so thankfully we avoid this cliché.

Strange things begin to happen in the Perron household (of course!), odd noises, foul odors, and unseen visitors, all of which eventually lead them to conclude that their home is haunted.

At the same time, the movie also introduces paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) a husband and wife team who go around the country helping people with their haunted houses and giving college lectures.

The movie tells parallel stories of both the Perron and the Warren families, until of course, Carolyn Perron contacts Ed and Lorraine and convinces them to come to her family’s house and take on the case.  And it’s here where the movie really takes off, when Ed and Lorraine arrive at the Perron home with their team, which includes another investigator Drew (Shannon Kook) and a police officer Brad (John Brotherton).

The rest of the movie follows this team’s efforts to identify the threat in the Perron household, and there are many—the house is occupied by anguished spirits and one very powerful demon— and then to protect the family and eventually exorcise the demon before it does what it wants to do, which is murder the Perron children.

I really enjoyed the cast in THE CONJURING, especially Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as the husband and wife investigator team of Ed and Lorraine Warren.  They’re a very believable couple.

The Warrens have a cool room full of relics which were once haunted, including a demonic doll introduced in the film’s opening segment, where we see the Warrens handle an earlier case.  As Ed tells an interviewer, they keep all these things rather than destroy them because they believe they’re able to contain the malevolent spirits this way.  Burn the objects, and the spirits will be released.  Nice thinking, although I question why they’d store these items in a room inside their home where their young daughter lives.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to house these things somewhere else?

Patrick Wilson makes for a very heroic and likeable lead as Ed Warren.  I like Wilson more each time I see him.  He played the dad in INSIDIOUS (2010), and he was also Night Owl in WATCHMEN (2009).

As much as I liked Wilson, I liked Vera Farmiga even more as Lorraine Warren.  As Lorraine, she’s just as strong and heroic as Wilson, but with the added vulnerability of having been attacked at an earlier exorcism, the details of which she refuses to divulge to her husband.  She’s also a clairvoyant, and she provides the main conduit for communicating with the spirits in this story.  She’s an interesting character.

Farmiga is currently starring in the TV show BATES MOTEL (2013-14), and she’s been in a lot of other movies as well.  She was memorable as the police psychiatrist Madolyn in THE DEPARTED (2006), the woman who becomes involved with both Matt Damon’s crooked cop and Leonardo DiCaprio’s mob infiltrator.  She delivers the best performance in THE CONJURING.

Lili Taylor is also very good as Carolyn Perron.  She does a nice job, at first playing the concerned mother, and then later, as the demon sets its sights on her, she gets to be the frightening possessed monster.  Taylor was one of the highlights of the otherwise underwhelming thriller THE COURIER (2012) in which she played an assassin named Mrs. Capo.

The five young actresses who play the Perron daughters are also all very good.

THE CONJURING has very little to say that hasn’t been said before, but there were things about the screenplay by Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes that I liked.  I definitely enjoyed the emphasis placed on the paranormal investigative team of the Warrens.  Their presence made the story much more interesting than had it been only about the Perron family tackling the ghosts on their own.  This was done to some degree in INSIDIOUS, but the Warrens are a much more compelling team than the investigators in INSIDIOUS.

The Perron family also remains believable throughout and avoids many of the cliché pratfalls of movie haunted house families.  As soon as the Perrons learn what’s going on, Roger wisely says “we have to get out of this house,” but Ed tells him that it’s not the house that’s possessed, but his family, and the demon would only follow him.  Again, this concept is not new (see INSIDIOUS) but it’s still handled well, mostly because the movie doesn’t insult our intelligence.

But the best part by far of THE CONJURING is the energetic direction by James Wan.  This movie is not at all graphic, and yet, it includes many frightening images and some decent scares.   As a horror movie fan, you’ve got to love it.  Some of the memorable images include a gruesome hanging body, a grieving spirit anguished over the death of its daughter, a creepy toy with a mirror in which you can see the face of a ghost, and who can forget the eerie demon doll sitting inside the locked glass cabinet of the Warren household?

This movie is chock-full of fun horror elements.

But is it scary?  Well, it’s not the most frightening movie I’ve ever seen, and sure, it could be scarier, but there are enough thrills and chills to keep most horror fans satisfied.

It also gets the pacing right.  Things start off slowly, but as soon as the Warrens arrive to investigate the Perron’s home, the movie cranks it up and never looks back.  This is how a movie should be paced.  It should get more intense as it goes along, which is exactly what happens in THE CONJURING.  That being said, the ending isn’t quite as satisfying as I’d hoped, but it’s still pretty darn good.

THE CONURING also has an excellent music score by Joseph Bishara, who also did the music for INSIDIOUS.

THE CONJURING is far from perfect, and it doesn’t have an original bone in its body, but it is one very fun very satisfying horror movie.  I definitely recommend it.

—END—