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Film / The Nun

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Sister Irene: Sister Oana, last night in the chapel, I saw a nun. She was, she felt anything but holy.
Sister Oana: Do you see her too? I've seen her stalking the hallways at night. She looks like us but she is not one of us. It's something unholy.

The Nun is a 2018 supernatural horror film directed by Corin Hardy (The Hallow), produced by Peter Safran and James Wan and written by Gary Dauberman. The fifth film to be set in The Conjuring Universe, it is a Spin-Off and Prequel of The Conjuring 2 and stars Demián Bichir and Taissa Farmiga.

In 1952, the Vatican sends a priest and a novice to investigate the mysterious suicide of a nun in the St. Cârța Abbey, located in the Romanian People's Republic.

Should not be confused with this film of the same name, which has a similar premise.

Previews: Teaser.

The film contains examples of:

  • The '50s: It is the earliest film in The Conjuring series chronologically, taking place in 1952.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: After Frenchie agrees to escort Father Burke and Sister Irene to the monastery, he passes a truck that starts gearing up. Mistaking it for their ride, Father Burke and Sister Irene place their luggage on the truck which then abruptly starts moving without them and reveals behind it Frenchie with his horse carriage. Sister Irene ends up bursting out in laughter for their mistake.
  • Adjective Animal Alehouse: The Black Bear bar is in the village near the abbey.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: In the Middle Ages, the abbey was owned by the Duke of St. Cârța who was obsessed with occultism and satanism. He also apparently killed some people as sacrifice for Valak and summoned Valak via a rift he opened in the catacombs.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The St. Cârța Abbey of the film bears little similarity to the Romanian Cârța Monastery from which it takes its name. Among the more prominent points is the fact that it had already been a ruin for centuries by 1952 and that the only remaining structure in current use is a chapel used by the local Saxon Lutheran community.
    • See Hammer and Sickle Removed for Your Protection for the liberties taken by a story set in an country behind the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War.
  • The Backwards Я: The second "n" of "nun" is reversed on the poster (The Nui?).
  • Barrier Maiden: The nuns of St. Cârța are a whole order of these, as they help keep Valak imprisoned through perpetual adoration in the abbey's main chapel, where there is always at least one nun praying at all times. They are so effective at this role that even after the seal is damaged during WWII it takes Valak until 1952 to kill them all and finally have free reign in the abbey.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The scene used as the first trailer's jumpscare (just before Irene gets possessed) is this. Sister Irene is alone in a dark hallway. The camera moves to the right, but when it moves back to her, a dark-clothed nun is behind her. There is no Jump Scare. Irene begins to walk down the hallway, all while the nun follows her. Some ethereal whispers can be heard before Irene stops and turns to face the nun. Again, the viewers expect a Jump Scare when she faces that nun, but there is none. Irene asks who the nun is, before the real Nun bursts out from the left side of the screen with a Scare Chord, attacking Irene. In short, the walking nun was a decoy, the actual Nun was using the aforementioned nun to lure Irene to that spot to attack her, and that was the real Jump Scare the scene was building up to.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Sister Victoria chose to commit suicide and be judged by God, rather than letting Valak take her as a human vessel.
  • Big Bad: Valak.
  • Big Good: Sister Irene, Father Burke, and the Vatican.
  • Bittersweet Ending: All three main characters survive the climax and the monastery is cleansed from evil. Then the ending reveals that Frenchie/Maurice is marked by Valak, allowing it to cross the mortal world by possessing him. Maurice commits suicide, but this only causes Valak to resort to possessing Janet Hodgson.
  • Buried Alive: Burke. What's worse, when he tries to alert Irene by ringing a bell, the other graves also ring their bells, forcing her to use her sensing power to locate him.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Both Irene and Frenchie experience this.
  • Chekhov's Gag: The spitting to cleanse evil spirits. It is initially treated as a harmless quirk of Frenchie and the villagers. In the climax, Irene manages to prevent Valak from crossing into the mortal world with Christ's blood. How does she do that? By swallowing the blood whole and spurting it at it.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Irene helps Burke solve a Crossword Puzzle. She spells out "deliverance". Later, Frenchie tells them that there exists a shortcut connecting the freezer with the hallway. When Burke is attacked by Daniel in the hallway, he spots "deliverance" written near a door that leads to the freezer shortcut.
    • Irene's dreams always end with "Mary shows the way". A Mary statue shows her, Burke, and Frenchie the way to Christ's blood.
    • Frenchie sees a double-barreled shotgun in the wall of the tavern while witnessing the effects of the evil on the village. He uses said shotgun in the third act to help Father Burke storm the abbey.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: Irene's sixth sense is technically this. She does confess to Burke about being spiritually aware, but until the burial scene, this is never demonstrated.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Frenchie is a shameless womanizer, but he genuinely cares for the women he flirts with.
  • Christianity is Catholic: The Cârța Monastery that the film's abbey is based on really was Catholic-affiliated (it started out life as a Cistercian abbey belonging to the Transylvanian Saxon community). However, most of the Saxons converted to Lutheranism during the Reformation, and along them the abbey.
  • Claimed by the Supernatural: Valak brands Frenchie with an inverted cross mark on his neck after it choked him, allowing it to continue to exist in the mortal world.
  • Continuity Nod: Another copy of the same photograph Sister Charlotte showed the girls in Annabelle: Creation can be seen in the wall of the guest quarters of the abbey.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Frenchie successfully resuscitates Irene from drowning with this. Since it's still CPR, he claims an exemption for having touched a nun.
  • Creepy Catholicism
  • Creepy Cemetery: The monastery has one filled with improvised crosses.
  • Dead All Along: The St. Cârța Abbey is devoid of any living people by the time Irene, Burke, and Frenchie visit it. Everyone they meet there has already been killed by Valak.
  • Deadly Distant Finale: Everyone escapes the Abby alive and well, riding off into the horizon. Then we see Frenchie was marked with an inverted cross by Valak, and we cut to 20 years later where Ed Warren is giving a lecture about a failed exorcism being performed on one Maurice "Frenchie" Theriault.
  • Demonic Possession:
    • Irene briefly becomes Valak's human vessel in the climax. Frenchie manages to snap her out of it.
    • Following the above, Frenchie is choked by Valak. While he apparently comes unharmed at the end of it, it turns out that Valak branded an inverted cross on his neck, which serves as a conduit to his eventual possession twenty years later.
  • Doomed by Canon: Frenchie introducing himself as a French-Canadian is already a worrying sign, but any hope that he is going to survive unharmed disappears when he reveals his first name: Maurice. For those wondering, Maurice is the victim of a failed exorcism attempt the Warrens mentioned (and shown) in The Conjuring. No, he doesn't get better.
  • Double-Meaning Title: "The Nun" can either refer to Sister Irene (the main protagonist) or Valak. It is evident in the poster, as shown above.
  • The Dreaded: Valak in spades. How much? A Nun hangs herself just to get away from it.
  • Europeans Are Kinky: Subverted. Sister Irene and Father Burke are presumably American, judging by their accents. Their guide in Romania is a local villager who sweet talks Irene in every scene they appear. However, said villager is actually an expat from Canada (although his actor is European).
  • Evil Sounds Deep: When Valak possesses Irene, her voice drops several octaves.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: If you cut the time spent traveling from the Vatican to London then to the monastery (which are shown briefly) and the ending (which is an edited archive footage), the film takes place within three days.
  • Flashback with the Other Darrin: Maurice is portrayed by Jonas Bloquet in the footage of his exorcism. He was originally played by Christof Veillon in The Conjuring.
  • Foregone Conclusion: No matter what the characters do, Valak will need to still be around until the late 1970s.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Frenchie is a French-Canadian. The only other French-Canadian in the series is Maurice, an exorcism patient who gives Lorraine the vision of Ed's death in The Conjuring. They turn out to be the same person.
    • Father Burke's greatest failure is a failed exorcism. Frenchie himself will turn into one for the Warrens twenty years down the line.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The license plate of the truck where Father Burke mistakenly places his belongings is "V10-ALAK".
  • Hammer and Sickle Removed for Your Protection: There is a noticeable lack of mention about Romania being a Communist state in the 1950s. Which would most likely affect the plot about the monastery, the nuns, the Catholics, or even religion in general (they were notoriously strict in Romania).
  • Haunted Castle: The abbey is more than haunted and cursed, it is unholy to begin with.
  • Holy Burns Evil: Again, crosses are useless against Valak. However, it is vulnerable to Christ's blood.
  • Improvised Cross: The land around the abbey is built with wooden crosses apparently meant to keep the evil from spreading to the nearby town. After Frenchie is attacked by the apparition of Sister Victoria, he arms himself with one and takes it with him to the tavern.
  • Irony: The village bartender muses to Frenchie that he is going to cart "two bodies" from the monastery, obviously referring to Irene and Burke. By the end of the film, Irene and Burke are alive and well, while Frenchie is Claimed by the Supernatural and dies twenty years later during an exorcism.
  • Just a Stupid Accent: Despite being mostly set in Romania, not a single word of Romanian is spoken in the film; the few Romanian locals we see merely speak English with a vague European accent.
  • Judge, Jury, and Executioner: In a flashback, the Church Militant executed the Duke of St. Cârța on the spot while he was summoning Valak.
  • Leaking Can of Evil: And aerial bombardment of the Abbey during WWII shattered the seal on the portal keeping Valak imprisoned. This allowed it to torment and attack the nuns. It still takes the demon at least 7 years to get rid of them all. The peasants in the nearby village expressly say that whatever evil is in the monastery is leaking and causing misfortunes in their town.
  • Meaningful Background Event: The film has lots of scenes where the ghost is simply wandering at the far end of the screen, with the present characters being none the wiser. The most memorable one is probably the one used in the trailers.
  • My Greatest Failure: Burke considered himself personally responsible for the death of Daniel, a boy he tried to exorcise during World War II. Valak uses this guilt against him by creating images of Daniel to attack him.
  • Night of the Living Mooks: Valak has an army of faceless, demon nuns made from the reanimated corpses of the nuns the used to inhabit the abbey.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Valak was summoned by a medieval Romanian nobleman who was aligned with darkness. Ring any bells?
  • Nuns Are Spooky: Goes without saying when the movie is an origin story for Valak.
  • Ouroboros: The abbess' throne in the hallway features this motif on its back.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Averted, those demon nuns are not zombies in the strict sense but reanimated corpses of the nuns killed by Valak and made to do its bidding in keeping the heroes pinned down.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Even though 'The Nun' is labelled as 'the darkest chapter in the Conjuring universe' they decided to introduce the character Frenchie. A young man living near the monastery who tends to crack jokes occasionally or just makes funny commentary in general to relieve some tension. The film does actually quite live up to this label at the very end however when it's revealed that Frenchie is actually Maurice, the man who was unsuccessfully exercised by the Warrens some 20 years later, meaning that the most likeable character in the film ended up meeting a horrible end.
  • Precision F-Strike: Upon discovering the relic counting the blood of Jesus Christ, Frenchie can only mutter "holy shit".
  • Psychic Radar: Irene has the ability to identify and see-through unseen people.
  • Religious Horror: Obviously, with the story concerning a nun and happening in a monastery.
  • The Reveal: Frenchie is Maurice, one of the Warrens' exorcism patients who dies by shooting himself, as stated by Ed in The Conjuring. He also gives Lorraine the vision of Ed's death, meaning that he is responsible for turning Valak's attention to the Warrens.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Similarly to what occurs in The Conjuring II, Valak's name is shown on background items throughout the movie, long before Father Burke discovers the demon's name. One noticeable spot is on the vanity plate of the truck Sister Irene and Father Burke erroneously put their luggage on.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The demon Valak has been imprisoned in the monastery since the Middle Ages, when the Church Militant interrupted the Summoning Ritual and sealed the portal with the blood of Christ. And just to make sure they put an entire order of nuns to pray 24/7 over the can to make sure he stayed sealed.
  • Sequel Goes Foreign: While not the first time this happens in the series (The Conjuring 2 is set in the UK), it is the first to take place in a non-English speaking country.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Frenchie arms himself with a double-barrel shotgun as he returns to the monastery. He uses it to kill reanimated corpses possessed by the demon.
  • Shout-Out: The abbey with a powerful demon and army of resurrected demon nuns is a direct nod to Season of the Witch where the knights also fight resurrected corpses of the friars as they battle the demon.
    • The films title is stylized in a similar fashion to the logo of the band "Nine Inch Nails"
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Frenchie is never shown up close in the trailers and indeed any promotional materials, despite being one of the main characters. Or the fact that, other than Valak, he is the only figure that connects this film with the main The Conjuring films.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: According to the incantation book Burke found in the cemetery, Valak is known as the Lord of Snakes. Just earlier, Burke was buried alive because he was startled by Daniel's apparition shapeshifting into a snake and ended up tripping into an empty coffin.
  • Starts with a Suicide: The film's opening ends with the suicide of Sister Victoria. It is later revealed to be a sacrifice, but still.
  • Trailers Always Lie: Irene's dialogue with Burke used in the trailers actually ends with "Mary shows the way". "I saw a nun" is from another scene entirely and is told to a different person.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Some of the promotional stills spoil Valak's brief possession of Irene.
  • Überwald: Checks the boxes. It's a supernatural horror film. It has priests, nuns, a demon, and an ancient monastery. And it takes place in Transylvania.
  • Unholy Ground: The local villagers consider the Cârța Monastery to be such an unholy place that they made them a scapegoat whenever there are misfortunes befalling them in a row. Considering that it was the place where a powerful demon was summoned, they are not that far off.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The bombings during World War II that hit the abbey and inadvertently broke the seal in the catacombs and freed Valak.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The real-life St. Cârța does have its own ghost stories. But they're relatively benign and none of which involve demonic nun.
  • Wham Shot: Frenchie/Maurice branded an inverted cross on the back of his neck.

"God ends here."