My already high hopes for The Nun (La Monja in its original Spanish) went through the roof when the jaded video store clerk checked out the box and said "This movie looks awesome!" Yes, jaded video store clerk, that's what I thought, too- oh, but how wrong we were.
18 years ago, the cruel, vaguely attractive Sister Ursula is using a shower head and scalding water to "purify" a pregnant student at her Barcelona boarding school. Hearing her screams, the girl's friends rush in and wrestle with Sister Ursula. She falls and bangs her head. As she lies there, the girls start to freak out...then it becomes obvious that she's not dead- so they hold her under the water and finish the job. They dump her body in the "blessed pool" on the school grounds and make the usual pact that will come back to bite them in the ass: let's promise never to tell what we've done! Total pinky swear. God, that device has been used so many frickin' times in horror movies...
Anyway, soon enough the guilty parties are being killed one by one by the nun's spirit, who can only manifest herself near water. The "product of sin" from 18 years ago, Eve, is all grown up now, and after witnessing the death of her mother at Sister Ursula's wispy, watery hands, she's determined to kick some nun ass.
For about 15 minutes, The Nun was all ten kinds of wicked sweet. The sound design was killer and used to great effect in the sequence above where Eve's mom gets it. The scene was actually tense, a little gory, nicely shot, well acted, and the nun was in the scene just long enough for you to get a little freaked out- she didn't overstay her welcome. I was really quite surprised by the first 15 minute of the movie, and very much looking forward to the next hour and a half or so.
Then, before I knew it, it all went horribly, horribly wrong. I'm not sure if I can pinpoint the exact moment when the train went off the tracks, but oh my my my did it. One big, fat, huge mistake was the portrayal of the ethereal nun after the initial encounter with her. Instead of just sweeping by quickly or having her remaining in the shadows, the filmmakers lingered on her for so long that there were long periods of time where she'd be in front of or behind someone, doing little more than mugging. I mean, this was like, silent movie, Bela Lugosi-esque "scary faces". I wouldn't have been surprised if she had actually began uttering "Booga booga!" or something to that effect. It got to the point where all you could do was cry "What is she doing? Why is she doing that?" I mean, imagine her waving back and forth for a while here, and add your own "Rarr!" sound effect for maximum enjoyment:
BOOGA BOOGA! Groan.
The end result was a movie that had many laugh-out-loud moments leading up to one of the most ludicrous, nonsensical "twist" endings in the history of ever. Even M Night Shyamalan wouldn't crap out an ending this bad during a bout of malaria-induced fever dreams. The problem is, it wasn't consistently bad enough to qualify as a good/bad classic- unfortunately, The Nun isn't worth seeking out for a night of scares OR a night or raucous bad-movie entertainment, and I was desperatly hoping, even before I brought it home, that it would qualify as one or the other. Instead, it falls squarely in that middle ground, that No Man's Land where a movie just...exists, neither acid nor base on the litmus paper. If it's on cable late at night, maybe check it out for some laughs. Otherwise...it's best if I just finish this thing off with a few choice comments and snippets of conversation from either Rachael or myself during viewing- some requiring context, others not.
"She looks like she's had plastic surgery."
"Yeah- her cheeks."
"And that nose- she probably thought it was going to be a good nose but then she just ended up with really big nipples."
(As two people, in horror-movie fashion, start to get it on in the middle of all the madness): "Hey! Now is really not the time!"
"Oh, come on- ghost hunting and nun killing always make people horny."
"I'd rather watch a million people be killed than watch ONE person clip their toenails--and struggle with it!" (Yes, probably the most disturbing sequence in the film)
"How did she shoot herself in the chest with a spear gun?"
"Never mind how---why??"
And lastly...the sequence during which I would have peed a little due to laughter had I not been so in shock. Eve and friends are on a plane, en route to Barcelona to solve the mystery. Everyone's asleep except Eve, who starts looking around the plane. She slowly turns to look out the window, and Rachael says "Watch, the nun will be on the wing of the plane!". I laughed and started imitating the nun's little wispy watery booga booga action, throwing in a little Twilight Zone Nightmare at 20,000 Feet for good measure. Then the camera swings over Eve's shoulder, looking out the plane window, and I kid you fucking not:
I could NOT believe what I was seeing. The nun. On the fucking wing of the plane, hitching a ride.
The Nun took itself way too seriously and had long stretches of dull space. If there had been more SuperCheese like the nun on the wing of the plane (God, I still can't believe that one), I'd watch it again, right now. As it stands, it just kinda stinks- and the ending...girl, don't even get me started. I give it 4 out of 10 scalding water abortions.