I was hoping for the conjurer’s Devils of Loudun. I got THE NUN instead.
Sequels and pre-sequels to box office success usually are connected in some, even obtuse fashion to the original. However, THE CONJURING has become its own genre.
Corin Hardy’s horror film takes place in a secluded abbey. Being Catholic, I was wondering how THE NUN would approach the mise en scène standards of horror. Would this be a retelling of The Devils of Loudun?
The Devils of Loudun is a 1952 non-fiction novel by Aldous Huxley. It is a historical narrative of supposed demonic possession, religious fanaticism, sexual repression, and mass hysteria that occurred in 17th-century France surrounding unexplained events that took place in the small town of Loudun. It centers on Roman Catholic priest Urbain Grandier and an entire convent of Ursuline nuns, who allegedly became possessed by demons after Grandier made a pact with Satan. The events led to several public exorcisms as well as executions by burning.
If only it was. The small Romanian convent has a bad reputation in the village. The rather public suicide of a young nun, Sister Victoria (Charlotte Hope), brings a Vatican-sanctioned exorcist, Father Burke (Demian Bichir), to investigate. Even though Father Burke has not proven himself a successful exorcist, he is teamed up with a young novitiate, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga). Being a novitiate means Sister Irene has not taken her final vows.
Novitiates, who are considering becoming Catholic nuns, go through a process of “discernment,” in which they spend some time, typically one or two years, speaking with nuns, visiting convents, attending retreats, and praying in order to determine if they will become a nun and what order they will join. They are not apprentices to demon hunters or exorcist assistants.
As a novitiate, Sister Irene can dress as a nun or a civilian. Since Taissa is sister to Vera Farmiga, who has a stake in the franchise as Lorraine Warren, will these two characters merge in a future pre-sequel? THE NUN takes place in 1952, so it may be possible to wiggle this. Or not.
Sister Irene is on the way to taking her final vows, but who knows what happens?
Father Burke must determine if the young nun’s leap to her death made the ground unholy.
Father Burke and Sister Irene – not in her religious habit – meet Frenchie, (Jonas Bloquet), a farmer who immediately starts flirting with the young, fresh-faced lady. He found the young nun’s body. Clearly the abbess was not paying attention to who was missing at prayers. Then Frenchie learns Irene still hasn’t taken those last impenetrable vows of stability (to remain a member of a single monastic community), obedience (to an abbess or prioress), and conversion of life (which includes poverty and celibacy).
The convent is indeed haunted by demons. The abbess mutates into the boy who Father Burke failed to heal. Don’t you hate when that happens? The devil is always impersonating a dead mother (THE EXORCIST) or some other dead relative.
Sister Irene learns the secret of the convent. The nun’s daily prayers have kept the evil spirits inside the convent. The Church – but not the Vatican – has known this for centuries, but now it seems the prayers have become just rote and the evil has risen to take the life of a young nun. The question is, can Father Burke and Sister Irene stop the deaths?
Well, soon Father Burke, really not doing much but going over manuscripts, finds out the demon nun has a name – Valak (Bonnie Aarons). And you know what happens when you speak the demon’s name out loud!
Every demonologist knows that knowing a demon’s name brings you power over the demon. That is why no one was allowed to say the name out loud of the Hebrew God Yahweh. During the Second Temple period, speaking the name of Yahweh in public became regarded as taboo. Yahweh, the name of the god of the ancient Hebrews was composed of four Hebrew consonants (YHWH, known as the Tetragrammaton) which the prophet Moses is said to have revealed to his people. After the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, the original pronunciation of the tetragrammaton was forgotten.
So there went talking to God face-to-face and asking for stuff.
Written by Gary Dauberman, THE NUN is not an intelligent film that could have been made. There is so much more that Dauberman and Hardy could have easily accessed that would have made more sense and used ancient religious history to validate.
Just from what I have written briefly, you know the filmmakers could have “conjured up” a better, more seriously scary story. But franchises must be fed every year. And all you need is a scary poster and artfully cut trailer.