Witness where the ever-expanding Conjuring universe started with Corin Hardy's The Nun! A prequel to all of the prequels, a detective priest with faith issues and a nun-in-training travel deep into Romania to investigate an ancient abbey and the evil that lurks within. Over-reliant on jump scares, a solid first half is squandered in the home stretch by misplaced comedy relief and a rote and routine demonic ending shows that these battles with devils and demons may be running out of steam - even if they're still wildly entertaining. Warner Bros. gets a little freaky with its 4K UHD Blu-ray release of The Nun offering up an HDR10 enhanced 2160p transfer that really bakes in the dark mood of the picture with an impactful Atmos mix. Bonus features are a bit on the light side. If you're a fan of these movies The Nun is a rollercoaster movie, not a great film, but an entertaining one. Recommended.
"I'm afraid there is something very wrong with this place."
Before The Conjuring, before a demon-girl infected a little doll in Annabelle: Creation, there was The Nun - the Mother Superior of all Conjuring films. Only it's unfortunately not a great movie. Entertaining? Sure. Good? I wouldn't say that. We pick this story up at a secluded secretive cloistered abbey in Romania in the 1950s where a nun was discovered hanging from a noose by local French-Canadian handyman Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet). Intent on discovering if this abbey is cursed, the Vatican has sent faith-stressed investigator Father Burke (Demián Bichir) along with nun-in-training Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) to investigate. Evil lurks in the darkness as Father Burke, Sister Irene, and their pal Frenchie soon learn of a terrible secret the convent of nuns had kept hidden for hundreds of years.
Without putting too blunt a sign on it, the plot of The Nun essentially is Exorcist: The Beginning / Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist. When I saw this in the theater it was pretty clear within the first few minutes that The Nun was following the same playbook of a faith-questioned priest who travels to a church the Vatican knew little or nothing about and must battle an ancient demon - that actually won't be stopped because this is a prequel, and the whole exorcise is a bit redundant. But I was fine with that. It's what I paid my money for because I just wanted to watch a creepy movie. Surprisingly enough, The Nun works - up to a point.
The first 45-minutes of The Nun is actually pretty solid stuff. There was a creepy location with ominous dark and shadowy photography to set the mood. The characters were introduced in albeit brief but an efficient way with fine performances by Bichir with little Farmiga keeping the family name involved in the franchise while her sister Vera preps for the upcoming Annabelle 3. Top it off, there were some great scares in there while the film actually took time to set itself up. Unfortunately - that last 45-minutes kills it.
I do enjoy jump scares - they're effective because you don't expect them and they almost always get the audience going - but it quickly becomes the only gag in the game. They become obvious and tiresome after a stretch. The film also moves away from some great practical gore and monster effects towards a parade of clunky CGI spectacle that just doesn't line up with what we saw at the outset - let alone in the previous Conjuring movies. Then the film finds a silly need to explain itself courtesy of a flashback sequence right out of a History Channel special complete with an ancient relic and Templar Knights. But those issues aren't this film's worst sins. It's the sad attempt at horror-comedy courtesy of our pal Frenchie that damns the film's last half.
I don't mind comedy in my horror movies - especially rollercoaster ride flicks like these. You need that smartly timed release after a good scare - but this? This, this is no good. All of a sudden every scare is given a quip or a joke from Frenchie and any tension or sense of danger is ruined anytime Burke or Irene shouts "Frenchie!" looking for help. And it isn't Jona Bloquet's fault either, he's playing the part with gumption and gusto trying to make the most of it. He's great in the first half as a guy who's just trying to help that is clearly in way over his head. His fight with a demon nun in the graveyard was creepy as hell and proved to be the perfect exit for the character. Then he comes back with a torch and a shotgun and his character effectively becomes the Jar Jar Binks of The Conjuring franchise.
To be honest, I'm past the point of really expecting too much from The Conjuring movies as a whole. Any genuine scares have played so each successive sequel or prequel is more or less a greatest hits rundown of old scares. But in truth, these movies are still fun. The Nun isn't a great movie by any stretch. Like the later Exorcist entries, they're not good movies but they're entertaining. They're a fun way to pass the time. To give The Nun some measure of credit, I don't think it's the worst film in the series, that would still be Annabelle for me. If only the last half of the film could have been as good as the front end this would have been an above average creeper flick.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K UHD Blu-ray
The Nun becomes the first Conjuring film to reach 4K UHD Blu-ray thanks to Warner Bros. in a two-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital set. The discs are housed in a standard black eco-friendly case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu with a traditional navigation menu. The bonus features are only found on the included Blu-ray. The included Digital Copy can be redeemed in 4K through Movies Anywhere and does give you a full 4K UHD with Dolby Vision HDR copy on VUDU.
Outright and upfront, I'm going to say that the 2.40:1 2160p transfer with HDR10 offers up a notable and impressive improvement over its 1080p sibling, however, it's not the picture-perfect transfer that it could have been - more on that in a second. As of yet, I haven't found technical information that lists whether or not the film was finished on a native 4K DI or if this is an upsampled transfer from a 2K DI - my guess is the latter. Overall detail is superb for this image - especially once the film moves to the abbey where things just get extremely dark with a lot of low light and heavy shadows. The opening daylight sequences are warm, bright, colorful and offer up rich vivid details. Facial features in close-ups offer a lot of fine lines, beard stubble, or age-lines. Clothing details also come through and some of the early practical gore effects appear particularly ghastly and gnarly.
The biggest immediate improvements people are going to witness with this transfer is in the black levels, contrast, and specifically how those elements react to low light sources. Several times throughout the film - especially towards the end - much of the image is caked in near complete darkness illuminated only by a candle, lantern, or torch. What sets this transfer above the 1080p is how well it handles the colors emanating from the light with the different shades of orange flickering against the skin, blood, or the costuming. When Frenchie gets attacked in the graveyard blood has a more pronounced grading from bright crimson red to becoming a black liquid depending on how close it gets to the light. Black levels are strong throughout without any noteworthy instances of crush and contrast is strong avoiding blooming while whites are nice and crisp even in the deep dark shadows.
While this is very good, the streaming Dolby Vision presentation does what the HDR10 presentation improves with details and colors, but it's much better at handling the black levels, contrast, and the fluctuations in low light or from flames and lanterns. The image as a whole appears maybe a stop or two darker but without sacrificing color vibrancy or saturation. It's a rare occurrence these days that a WB 4K disc isn't given the Dolby Vision treatment, but regardless, I'm encouraged by the results here. On streaming services, the rest of the Conjuring movies are already available in 4K so I'm hopeful the rest of the films - in particular, the first two - will be coming to 4K UHD Blu-ray soon - ideally with Dolby Vision on disc instead of the current streaming exclusives.
In keeping with the recent entries of the franchise, The Nun sports a particularly spooky and effective Dolby Atmos audio mix. For a flick with this many bumps, creeks, rustling winds, and jump scares - it gets quite the workout! One of the things I've loved about this franchise is how well they play with silence. They let those precious few moments of dread and suspense creepy into the scene with a few bits of atmospherics like wind or rustling leaves or a creaking floorboard. This mix keeps to those strengths.
Dialogue is clean and clear throughout - which for the number of times "Frenchie" is shouted may be a bad thing for some? But in all seriousness the element spacing and resonance for this mix is wonderful. You could have creepy low sounds in one corner, hushed whispering voices in the center, some wind or other sound punching the vertical activity, and then cap the mixture off with Abel Korzeniowski's moody score. The mix also does a great job of managing the jump scares which can go from near dead silent to instantly rocking your entire setup without suffering any distortion. LFE activity is great making sure those eery dissonant tones are always present. Even when the movie is at its silliest, it sounds great. The only issue is Atmos is not the default track and you do have to go to the Audio menu and select it, but that's par for the course with Warner Bros. these days.
Bonus features aren't the most impressive lot for The Nun. The thing most folks are going to be interested in are those precious 12-minutes of deleted scenes. Aside from one effective bit, there aren't any more scares or jumps. Everything else is character development material that I can only guess was cut for time - but I wish they were kept in. You learn a lot more about the characters - especially Father Burke and his backstory. The rest of the bonus features are the tried and true EPK filler that doesn't show a lot of behind the scenes material.
Deleted Scenes (HD 12:18)
A New Horror Icon (HD 5:18)
Gruesome Planet (HD 6:18)
The Conjuring Chronology (HD 3:50)
The Nun isn't the best of this Conjuring universe. If I had to rank them it'd come in at fourth just ahead of the original Annabelle film. Just because it isn't a great movie doesn't mean that it isn't entertaining. Despite some notable faults, I've had fun with this one on multiple occasions now. The franchise is far from dead but it does need a little more TLC if it wants to keep running at the pace Warner Bros. is pushing them out.
Warner Bros. finally puts a Conjuring universe movie out on 4K UHD Blu-ray disc - and in decent form. The Nun is not a bright and cheery movie as must of the film takes place in a dark and ominous abbey and the 2160p transfer with HDR10 presentation easily outpaces the SDR Blu-ray in every respect. While the streaming Dolby Vision presentation is more refined and nuanced, this disc's imagery is well worth it. With the same effective and exciting Atmos mix, this is a technically excellent disc. At this point, you're a fan of the Conjuring universe and this is an okay entry. But if you haven't been scared or charmed by previous entries let alone this parade of prequels, The Nun won't be changing opinions. Still, I'm calling this 4K UHD Blu-ray Recommended. It's not an amazing show but it's fun and it looks great.