If that sounds silly and slightly sacrilegious, well, that’s the beginning of “The Nun,” currently burning up the box office with its mix of Hammer-style horror, toothy demons and Catholic mumbo-jumbo.
I saw the movie last night … SPOILER WARNINGS AHEAD.
“The Nun” is the latest spawn of “The Conjuring” extended universe, heading back to early-1950s Romania (it was actually filmed there, too) to follow Vatican “miracle hunter” Father Burke (Demian Bichir) and visionary postulant Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) as they investigate the suicide by hanging of a young nun at an excessively spooky abbey.
Their help and guide is Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), a French-Canadian inexplicably slopping hogs on a Romanian farm. Tall and blue-eyed, he’s cheekily flirty with Irene, exuding the kind of relaxed masculine confidence, combined with good humor, that we just don’t see enough of. I’d be up for Frenchie making a return engagement.
Also, Farmiga is the younger sister of Vera Farmiga, who plays Catholic paranormal investigator Lorraine Warren in “The Conjuring” movies. Vera also appears as Lorraine here, but the strong resemblance between the two is never addressed.
Anyway, arriving at the castle, the trio finds the work of a set decorator with a fetish for sticking crosses everywhere, huge cobwebby rooms lit by endless candles, and over-the-top Catholicky whatnot in every nook and cranny. Who lights the candles? Why don’t they also dust? No one seems to be around, but the guest-quarters larder is still well-stocked.
On the first night there, demonic forces grab Father Burke and bury him alive in the cemetery, not only filling in the hole but magically growing vines and grass on the top of it. For a moment, I thought slight little Sister Irene, in her nightie, would have to dig him up with her bare hands, but look, there’s a shovel!
And as Father Burke breaks out of his coffin, he notices that there are some helpful books in it, which I’m pretty sure weren’t there before. If it was me, I’d be standing there, freaking out for a few minutes from having been buried and mauled by demon hands, but Burke is made from sterner stuff.
The next day, Father Burke is back in a natty suit, apparently entirely recovered from his near-death burial and eager to do some research and chat up a veiled abbess who keeps popping up out of nowhere.
(Sister Irene also has a pretty snazzy, elaborately pleated and stitched habit — and no Flying Nun hat.)
There’s also a glass vial filled with the Blood of Christ, which is the only thing that can close the Hellmouth (sorry, I was having “Buffy” moments) opened at the abbey. Until the Blood is fetched from its hiding place, holding the demonic presence at bay is the sisters’ “Perpetual Adoration,” which appears to be just constant Ave Marias, with no Eucharist visible. So … never mind, as the sisters themselves turn out to be spectral.
This somewhat disappoints Frenchie, who nevertheless takes it well.
This. Movie. Makes. No. Sense … At. All.
I tried to work out the logic with my movie companion over donuts afterward, and we were both at a loss.
On the other hand, in its own ridiculous, shambling, haphazard way, “The Nun” is a testament to the power of prayer and the power of Christ. Prayers and holy water battle the demons, and the Blood of Christ dispatches it for good. Father Burke and Sister Irene don’t have superpowers, it’s Christ working through them.
And that’s what, in the end, makes this movie entertaining and oddly affecting. As I always say, in the movies, when Satan and his minions threaten to sweep across the face of the Earth — or at least, Romania — you gotta go to the Catholics.
We got the Latin; we got the outfits; we got the stuff; we got the mojo — but the power of Christ, not the power of us, compels the demons.
(Thank God nobody’s counting on us alone to save anyone — as current events amply demonstrate.)
As they say, with great power comes great responsibility. Even Hollywood knows that we kick demon butt and take names … but only as long as we have Christ on our side.
Even more important — only as long as we’re on Christ’s side.
Upside, “The Nun” lacks profanity, the gore is present but not overwhelming, there are plenty of jump-scares (though startled, I was never actually scared), there’s zero sexual content, and all the Catholic characters are true believers.
We could do worse.
So, if you want some goofy fun with a Catholic chaser, say a Hail Mary, check your brain at the door and enjoy “The Nun.”
And if you’re wondering about “The Conjuring” universe as a whole, here you go:
Images: Warner Bros. Pictures