I went into The Nun with lukewarm expectations. James Wan’s The Conjuring universe is now five films deep, and the laws of probability state not every entry is destined for cinematic horror greatness. I love the franchise and want every entry to succeed. Yes, Annabelle received plenty of negative press when it hit theaters, but the franchise has figured out the formula for creating above-average theatrical horror. However, it’s this paint-by-numbers blueprint that acts as an anchor to an otherwise interesting premise – a Nun origin story. Plenty of problems plague The Nun; however, maybe due to my tepid expectations, I enjoyed it.

A suspicious suicide at a remote Romanian convent sparks a Roman investigation. Father Burke (Demián Bichir) and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) head to the convent on Vatican orders to see if the grounds are still holy. However, strange supernatural occurrences begin to happen upon arrival. While The Nun is brimming with jump scares – misdirected shots punctuated with a loud noise – the movie takes no time wading into the eerie. But there are no surprises. The scares are expected, easily spottable from orbit. 

The Nun doesn’t live up the quality of other entries in The Conjuring universe.

What the movie lacks for a story – and a logical horror framework for all the supernatural happenings – the setting and presentation make up for some of its faults. The Romanian convent is haunting. Dark corridors, creepy cross-filled forests, and unsettling lighting create a tense atmosphere reminiscent of gothic horror greats. Special effects range from a smidge above average to stunning. Only a few scares overstay their welcome. However, The Nun is used as a crutch – lingering way too long in several scenes, stripping away the characters scariness presented in The Conjuring 2. 

The acting is satisfactory. No particular performance stands out; however, Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet) will be a fan-favorite. The dialogue – an assortment of accents – feels antiquated, as it should for a movie set in rural Romania in 1952. However, the dialogue mixed with the accents makes understanding the characters difficult at times. There are no bad performances though, just actors hindered by an awkward script. 

It’s not bad, but disappointing in the way a parent is disappointed in their teenager for any number of youthful follies.

The Nun doesn’t live up to the quality of other entries in The Conjuring universe. The Conjuring and Annabelle: Creation are far superior. Director Corin Hardy (The Hallow) is superbly talented, but it feels as if his slick style was neutered by committee. Underneath the jump scares, wonky plot, and weak characters is a compelling story. Maybe it shouldn’t have been your run-of-the-mill horror movie. Instead, a slow-burning gothic horror could have replaced the stream of jump scares with tension. Even with all its faults, I still enjoyed my time with the film. 

The Nun does add to The Conjuring lore, further expanding and connecting the universe. However, there’s a better movie buried in everything that’s wrong with The Nun. It’s not bad, but disappointing in the way a parent is disappointed in their teenager for any number of youthful follies. The Nun will make its money back, and possibly spawn a sequel thanks to one specific scene. If that happens, hopefully, it breaks the formula to deliver a compelling horror movie.