“The Nun” haunts The Conjuring Universe
Updated: Jul 7, 2021
4K ULTA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) is confronted by the presence of The Nun in a mirror.
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4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2018; R for terror, violence, and disturbing/bloody images; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime (4K), Apple TV (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “A New Horror Icon”
DEMON NUN Valak stole the show in “The Conjuring 2.” Now it gets its own movie, and it’s a doozy direct from James Wan and Gary Dauberman.
Like Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy, “'The Nun' movie is very classic gothic horror,” Producer/Co-writer Wan says in “A New Horror Icon,” one of four bonus features on Warner Brothers’ release. That a holy person can become corrupted is a terrible thing. That a demon can take over is a nightmare.
Wan of "Saw" and writer/director of the first "Conjuring" films may be the godfather of The Conjuring Universe, but Dauberman is its great-uncle. He penned the “Annabelle” spinoff films as well as the latest incarnation of Stephen King's “It.”
Like those favorite haunts – and like the creatures from Guillermo del Toro and Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” – “The Nun” relies on a human actor. Bonnie Aarons, profiled in “A New Horror Icon” and “The Conjuring Chronology,” brings the character to don’t-turn-out-the-lights life. Like Englund, she enjoys her role.
“I don’t like the dark. I don’t like being alone, so I try my best at night to not let myself think of Bonnie’s face flying at me with her wild eyes and her demonic teeth. It was hard.” – Taissa Farmiga, Sister Irene
Set in the 1950s, the story opens in an ancient, isolated abbey in Romania when a young nun takes her own life. The Vatican sends Father Burke played by Demián Bichir, and novitiate Sister Irene to investigate. Taissa Farmiga, sister to Vera Farmiga who plays Lorraine Warren in “The Conjuring” films, is cast as Sister Irene. They are challenged to find out what happened at the abbey; is it still a holy place? Guided by Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), the local who delivered food to the abbey and discovered the dead nun, they discover a great evil has escaped. It will destroy the nearby village If it isn’t stopped, and, ultimately, spread further. Demonic evil is never content to stay in one place.
(1) Sister Victoria (Charlotte Hope) flees from a demonic presence at the abbey. (2) Investigator and exorcist Father Burke (Demián Bichir) is called in by the Vatican to find out what happened at the abbey. (3) Novitiate Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) teaches children to love and expand on teachings found in the Bible. She has yet to take her vows. (4) Father Burke tells Sister Irene about their journey to come.
Newcomers can launch themselves into “The Nun” and The Conjuring Universe here. Fans will find traces from the other films – and a reckoning at the end of how events connect. It’s scary-good stuff!
“The Nun” was shot in “deepest, darkest” Transylvania, Romania, Director Corin Hardy says in “Gruesome Planet,” pointing out highlights of the Carpathian Mountains, “gothic spires, rugged countryside, and subterranean tunnels.” Warner did not announce a 4K Ultra HD disc would be available until a week before it hit the streets. We received the Blu-ray disc for review and purchased ourselves the Ultra 4K for comparison.
The 4K and Blu-ray transfers (2.40:1 aspect ratio, more likely from a 2K master) both look very good, with saturated color, natural flesh tones – except when supernatural – and plenty of shadows. Color is marginally cool, with bolder highlights giving “The Nun” an overall natural palette. Effects are solid from mummified bodies to a bevy of ghosts wearing bloody hoods. It’s nice to see the red is not overdone.
(1) Sister Irene and Father Burke meet "Frenchie" (Jonas Bloquet), who found Sister Victoria's body at the abbey. (2) Sunlight fades in the forest as Father Burke and Sister Irene approach the abbey. (3) Sister Irene, Father Burke and Frenchie give Sister Victoria a proper burial in the abbey's graveyard. (4) The unholy Nun appears. (5) Father Burke suddenly finds himself buried alive. (6) Sister Oana (Ingrid Bisus) guides Sister Irene through the abbey's mysteries and tells her about the nuns's mission. The demon remained imprisoned until World War II bombing broke the seal.
Black levels are solid, and even deeper in Ultra 4K. There’s good contrast throughout. Shadowy, haunted sequences are balanced against bright daylight, where characters move through a school room, gardens, the village and the exterior of the abbey. HDR toning gives color and contrast a nice boost on 4K.
Location shots provide beautiful authenticity, and there’s footage of a local priest blessing the location before shooting. (Guessing no one wanted injuries on set or to bring home any real haunts.) Corvin Castle, Romania, built in the 15th century, was used for the abbey’s exterior set, while Bethlen Castle provided the graveyard and interior shots. “The Nun” writers gave their abbey a grisly background, in which an evil nobleman summons a demon. The Vatican takes over afterward, turning the castle into an abbey, where a holy relic and constant prayer keeps Valak contained.
“The locations are imposing and scary. It makes it real, it makes it visceral and all of those things a good horror movie should be.” — Charlotte Hope (Sister Victoria)
It’s a winner. Warner provides excellent Dolby Atmos and default eight-channel Dolby TrueHD soundtracks. For those who have the Atmos height speakers, The Conjuring Universe is a genuine treat featuring subtle overhead effects – all the better to creep us out. Explosions and gun shots in other films seem standard in comparison. Even so, the TrueHD track boasts clear dialogue well balanced with effects and an orchestral score by Abel Korzeniowski (“Penny Dreadful”). Choral highlights are evocative of “The Omen.”
The three featurettes aren’t much longer than six minutes each. “A New Horror Icon” and “Gruesome Planet” are joined by “The Conjuring Chronology,” placing “The Nun” in order with the other films. It took over 20 years for “The Conjuring,” based on the experiences of real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren to be made into a film. “The Nun” is an offshoot along with the “Annabelle” movies. A third “Conjuring” and “Annabelle” film is in the works, along with “The Crooked Man,” also introduced in “The Conjuring 2.”
There are seven deleted scenes, all good, offering further characterization and story background.
Despite Aarons’ bravura performance, “The Nun” isn’t as scary as “The Conjuring.” Few films are. Still, it's far better than most out there and earns major points for characters, setting and story. We also love that classic style. This one’s gonna haunt you!
— Kay Reynolds
(1) Ancient manuscripts reveal the abbey's history and mission to Father Burke. (2) Sister Irene takes her final vows. (3) The demonic nun (Bonnie Aarons) takes on Sister Irene and Father Burke.
The Nun featurette