'The Nun' Early Buzz: A Weak Entry In The 'Conjuring' Universe Offers Jump Scares And Little Else

This weekend brings The Nun to theaters, adding another origin story to one of the horrors from the Conjuring universe. However, fans looking for any proper explanation as to where this demonic woman of the clergy comes from may walk away disappointed. Instead, you'll be treated to 90 minutes of jump scares and a lot of smoke and mirrors. If that's exactly what you're looking for from director Corin Hardy and the Conjuring universe, then you'll be fine. But otherwise, The Nun reviews paint this as a hollow, disappointing entry in the franchise.

Andrew Barker at Variety finds the spin-off lacking purpose and sense:

The fifth film in the Conjuring Cinematic Universe, Corin Hardy's "The Nun" looks to flesh out the story of Valak, a demonic nun first glimpsed in "The Conjuring 2," and here seen taking hold of a remote Romanian abbey. But it never manages to answer the one question a spinoff would seem to exist to provide: What, exactly, does this otherworldly demon actually want? It certainly knows all of the tools of the trade – slowly turning crosses upside-down, casting ominous shadows, switching on old-timey radios, emerging from walls to grab terrified novitiates from behind, only to let go as soon as they scream. But as for its endgame, it doesn't seem to have much in mind beyond punking the local clergy.

As for the film itself, "The Nun" knows exactly what it wants to do. Employing just about every trick from the Hammer Horror playbook without wasting time trying to make any sense, it provides a serviceable 96 minutes of standard-issue jump scares and supernatural hokum, keeping the franchise fresh in moviegoers' minds and raking in some easy cash while we wait for the next proper installment.

Tim Robey at The Telegraph thinks the film just doesn't come together well:

The Nun isn't scary enough, doesn't move fast enough, and has not-quite-characters who weirdly feel as though they're occupying different films. All told, it feels like a bit of a placeholder in this series – more so than last year's daft but effective devil-doll prequel, Annabelle: Creation.

The Nun has the inescapable feel of being not based on a true story – vaguely inspired though it might be by hauntings at Câr?a Monastery – and in fact not based on a story at all, but a series of theoretically frightening ideas for scenes.

It has relentless nunface rising ominously from a dark pool with mood music. It has bells tinkling over occupied graves. It has a diabolical snake, and dead people playing Grandmother's Footsteps with bloodied sackcloths over their heads. It's sludgy, and kind of random, and if you already know you'll enjoy it anyway, you undoubtedly will.

Hugh Armitage at Digital Spy was disappointed in lack of a true origin story for the titular demon:

Fans excited to learn more about the origins of Valak will be sorely disappointed – though it deserves credit for tying in to the wider story of The Conjuring-verse in a couple of neat ways. But the plot, which was devised by Wan and Dauberman, seriously jumps the shark and opens some inconsistencies in the overarching universe that subsequent sequels will struggle to explain.

The Nun is a good-looking film (barring the odd dodgy lighting effects) with some strong design elements including a graveyard full of the least-reassuring crucifixes we've ever seen. But you'll wait in vain for Hardy to take advantage of all he's got and deliver some genuine scares. Let's hope the future Conjuring movies don't make a habit of it.

Bilge Ebiri at Rolling Stone calls the movie an "unholy mess":

The creepy, somber mood, so expertly established in The Nun's early scenes, doesn't last either: Once everyone gets to the abbey, the film simply gives up the ghost and cynically indulges every horror trick in the book. Hands burst through doors and grab people; crosses magically turn upside down; nuns go flying or are set aflame. Along the way, we are inundated with creepy reflections and figures plunging out of the darkness and, of course, those obligatory oh-god-what's-that-over-your-shoulder shots. A little of this stuff goes a long way, and a lot of this stuff doesn't go very long at all. True horror requires anticipation to work properly, but it's hard to anticipate anything when everything's already being thrown at us. The dread dissipates. Our screams become nothing but weary sighs.

The Nun Reviews

Tom Jorgenson at IGN knocks the movie for lacking real scares:

As a piece of the larger Conjuring universe puzzle, The Nun is a fun, if ineffectual history lesson that will provide fans with plenty of dots to connect. On its own merits, The Nun stumbles by not delivering any real terror or investment in its characters, instead resting on its strong visuals and atmosphere and, strangely, humor. Fans of The Conjuring franchise itching for more lore to pore over will get what they came for, but if you were hoping that this would be the scariest film in the franchise... keep praying.

Dana Schwartz at Entertainment Weekly finds the movie unsure of what it wants to be:

While watching The Nun, it's possible to envision multiple versions of this film—slow-burning gothic thriller; bloody gore-horror; action-comedy—layered atop one another, like transparencies stacked on an overhead projector. Like the demon Valak, we never actually get to see this movie's true shape, just whatever form it chooses to take on in any given scene.

Nothing stands out as uniquely memorable or iconic (the nun-in-the-mirror bit, scary as it was, was already done in The Conjuring 2). But when it leans into its camp, (I.e. when the French-Canadian "Frenchie" is on screen), The Nun comes closest to its ideal form of go-to midnight-movie, the fun younger cousin of the Conjuring movies with less build-up but more of the money shots you'll come to a theater to see.

Ben Kenigsberg at The New York Times says to see The Nun "only if you must" and wrote:

While not as urbane or colorful, the production has the occasional feel of a middle-range, semi-forgotten Hammer Films outing, filled with lore sure to please viewers eager to find out how World War II reopened a gateway sealed since the Dark Ages. There is at least one great set piece: The graves outside the abbey have bells on them — a tradition, we're told, dating from a time when people feared being buried alive. Sure enough, before the film is over, someone will be ringing a bell.

Jamie Righetti at IndieWire regrets that this origin story provides an explanation for this evil:

While "The Nun" has some veritable scares up its sleeve, it's also proof that sometimes the most terrifying horrors are the ones we don't understand.

While "The Nun" is another solid and scary entry in the "Conjuring" Universe, it is hopefully the last origin story. The point of "The Nun" was to give an explanation to evil, but what makes evil truly chilling is when there is no clear-cut answer as to why it exists.

The Nun Reviews

Christy Lemire at RogerEbert.com makes an unfavorable comparison to Minions to describe how shallow the movie is:

It's sort of like the Minions. (Hear me out on this.) The Minions were the best part of the "Despicable Me" movies. They provided quick blasts of adorable insanity with their denim overalls and dazed expressions, their gibberish and their general incompetence. But a whole movie about them—again, the appropriately titled "Minions"—grew tedious pretty quickly when it came out on 2015.

I'm not saying that The Nun is literally like an evil version of a Minion, although she does run around in a uniform, wreaking havoc and doing her master's bidding. But there is a similarity to the shallow nature of these crucial supporting characters that reveals itself when a feature film focuses on them.

The "Conjuring" movies—especially James Wan's original two, and not so much the "Annabelle" prequels—stood apart from so much demon-themed horror with their well-drawn characters, strong performances and powerful emotional underpinning. "The Nun" feels like an empty thrill ride by comparison. Once it stops and you step off, you may still feel a little dizzy, but you'll have forgotten exactly why.

Scott Mendelson at Forbes says The Nun is the "weakest chapter in The Conjuring universe" and wrote:

Despite strong acting and some engaging visuals, The Nun is a glorified nothing-burger of a movie. As a prequel to the prequel to the prequel to The Conjuring, it offers little beyond filling in a few blanks in terms of how the main villain from The Conjuring 2 came to be. Lacking the vibrant atmosphere of Annabelle: Creation, the detailed characterizations of both Conjuring movies or even some of the potent shocks and relatable moments of AnnabelleThe Nun is the worst movie in a somewhat inconsistent franchise. To be fair, that's part of the price for a so-called connected universe. Sometimes you get Wonder Woman, sometimes you get Man of Steel. Alas, in this comparison, The Nun is Suicide Squad.

William Bibbiani at The Wrap doesn't find the movie scary and compares it to a cartoon:

"The Nun" is spooky, but it's never genuinely scary, because it takes place in a reality divorced from our own. Every gothic element is overblown, every "boo" scare is shouted so loud it can break glass (sometimes literally). It feels like it jumped straight out of an EC Comics horror anthology, full of unreal imagery but with none of the trademark ironic moralizing.

Many of the film's biggest centerpieces are so cartoonishly broad that any rational mind would assume they are supposed to be dream sequences.

"The Nun" doesn't seem to belong in universe of "The Conjuring." In the previous films, the supernatural horrors befell seemingly normal people, grounding the audience in a semblance of reality before any experts in the occult showed up. It's scary because it could happen to you. But "The Nun" is about occult adventurers seeking out danger, giving the film a B-movie adventure sensibility that would be charmingly silly, were it not for the repetitive horror sequences which try (and usually fail) to get under your skin.

Andrew Whalen at Newsweek notes there are plenty of jump scares, but they become a bit tiresome:

There's more to The Nun plot than that, including sacred relics, holy visions, Teutonic Knights and a portal to Hell, but it doesn't matter too much, because The Nun is about piling as many scares as possible into 90 minutes. While not as elegant as the agonizing builds and clever scares of The Conjuring movies, The Nun makes up for it in quantity.

Nearly every scene features Father Burke or Sister Irene confronting mysterious, habit-cloaked entities, wielding crosses splashed with holy water, digging up graves, reading old texts or exploring labyrinthine crypts, the Nun likely to pop out from behind every corner. A significant percentage of the runtime is taken up with a character walking, ever-so-slowly, toward a turned-away nun kneeling on the floor, ready to pounce or reveal a demonic face. This rapid-fire approach to horror keeps The Nun from ever getting close to boring, though it does dull the senses.


With a story that doesn't quite measure up to the lore of The Conjuring franchise and scares that feel cheap, it sounds like The Nun is a disappointment. However, the sheer number of jump scares in the movie have many of the critics pointing out that the movie is never boring. At the very least, director Corin Hardy knows how to set the stage and deliver some frights, even if the movie lacks substance.

The Nun hits theaters tonight.