The Nun (2018) Review

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The Nun

Directed by Corin Hardy

www.thenunmovie.com

Fifteen years ago, James Wan launched the most successful horror franchise of all time with the “Saw” series of eight entries and more than a billion dollars in box office receipts. While he has gone on to success in non-genre offerings like “Furious 7”and the upcoming “Aquaman”, he always comes home to the haunt. In the last half decade, Wan’s raised spirits and profits with “The Conjuring” which has birthed a unique universe of five films with a time-tested formula of small budgets with big returns and several recurring characters including the titular twisted sister Valak of “The Nun” introduced in “The Conjuring 2” whose origins are explored in this stand-alone just in time to start the Halloween season early.

A thankfully short but completely unnecessary Valak highlight reel from “The Conjuring 2” opens the film up which is a definite misstep but quickly locks back in place as we witness two cloistered nuns attempting to diminish a demonic presence results in one being attacked and dragged into darkness while the other elects suicide, hanging herself from a high-rise window jump, begging for forgiveness. The discovery of her body by a local deliveryman, Frenchie who notifies the nearby village with word eventually reaching the Vatican who entrust an experienced but tortured priest Father Burke and Sister Irene, a novitiate who is deeply unsure of why she was chosen to undertake this task, having neither vows taken or knowledge of their Eastern European destination. Upon their arrival and with the help of Frenchie, they soon discover why they were chosen and the evil within the abbey that must be stopped…

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For those familiar with the previous four films (“The Conjuring,” “Annabelle,” “The Conjuring 2,” “Annabelle: Creation,”) there is nothing new to be found with “The Nun” but it does have many of the hallmarks that make the series standout from similar studio dreck. Casting is always superb with an excellent choice of Taissa Farmiga (sister of “The Conjuring” series very own Lorraine Warren, Vera Farmiga) who is best remembered for her role in the landmark first season of “American Horror Story” and plays Sister Irene with a genuine and unyielding grace. It contrasts well and classically with Demian Bichir as Father Burke who, in his best impression of both Fathers Merrin and Karras, is a man whose faith has been deeply shaken. They are rounded out and complimented perfectly by Frenchie, played by Jonas Bloquet, overflowing with charm and comic relief but undoubtedly seeking his purpose in the world too.

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The sharp blend of humor and horror has always served the series well and “The Nun” is no exception and due to the tightknit trio here, some shortcomings that might have deeply undercut are dulled substantially. Have no doubt that this is still jump scare city, population you, but the most effective chills are in the first half of the film with others growing cheap and predictable towards the finale, a few still surprised. A standout is the abbess, immersed in black and veiled from the world is unsettling and slightly reminiscent of the confessional scene in “Legion: The Exorcist III” and Frenchie’s after dark graveyard encounter is old school frightening fun. (There’s also what I must believe is a nod to “Demon Knight” as the film winds down that is a real joy to see.)

The Nun Movie 2018

The gothic setting of rural Romania and its brooding, almost alien atmosphere adds a lot to “The Nun” but if they had focused more on classic suspense and practical effects, it could have harkened back to the glory days of Universal, Hammer and Amicus. Shades appear (as Wan is wont to do) but it comes up short as mentioned before because they slide back into the well-worn formula too fast. The score by Abel Korzeniowski keeps it wonderfully spooky, especially when used in tandem with the gorgeous set design and cinematography but gets a bit too glossy for its own good.

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Without disclosing too much, the events of previous films do come full circle here but it doesn’t feel as fluid or fulfilling as it could have been. The narrative is far from sturdy but the atmosphere and lead performances make it a competent and fun film but probably the least effective of all those in the Conjuring universe to date. Still, “The Nun” is in the spirit of the season and sure to delight longtime fans and recent novitiates….

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The Most Underrated Films of the ’00’s – Cult Following Episode #87

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In this episode of Cult Following, the crew breaks down what they consider to be the hidden gems of the first decade of the 21st century. Kirby, Victor, and Joshua break down their Top 5 Underrated, Underseen Favorite Films of the 2000’s and their choices may surprise you! Plus reviews of Crazy Rich Asians, The Happy Time Murders, and a discussion of identity politics and film in 2018 from Black Panther to now are all apart of this episode of Cult Following!

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The Happytime Murders Review (2018)

 

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The Happytime Murders

Directed by Brian Henson

https://www.thehappytimemurders.movie/

Preceding the premiere of this year’s funniest feature to date (that’s Deadpool 2 in case you weren’t aware) was a red-band trailer for this puppets in peril picture from Brian Henson (yes, that’s Jim’s son) and the entire audience, myself included, were in tears from laughter and very excited for its potential.

Unfortunately, this proved to be a fatal clue in this noir lite clunker where the classic culprit is the 3 minute preview that allows you to skip the remaining 87 minutes and save some cash and brain cells. Now that’s not to say there isn’t some mindless fun to be had and it makes for a decent matinee but it could have been so much more.

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In short, I had hoped for “Meet The Feebles” was willing to settle for “Ted” and didn’t end up with either. What “The Happytime Murders” has is a hodgepodge of first rate puppetry, half assed acting and sight gags that delight at first but diminish quickly as the film drags on. The jokes get old quick and the few flashes of innovation, intrigue and intensity are wasted mainly on the bookends, leaving for a less than satisfying main course.

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“The Happytime Murders” occur in an alternate present where puppets and their non-felt human counterparts live in a world where the former isn’t exactly equal to say the least, largely relegated to a life of abuse and disrespect. The single source of acclaim and adoration stems from “The Happytime Gang” a beloved puppet sitcom from the 80s that’s recently achieved a lucrative syndication contract with a caveat that any deceased members share will be passed on the surviving ones. Private investigator Phil Phillips, the first puppet police officer discovers this and follows the trail with his hostile former partner Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) trying to save the rest of the cast.

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In a rare wise move, puppeteer and voice actor Bill Barretta is allowed to animate Phil Phillips and grant him a wry, deadpan personality befitting a classic gumshoe. While not earth shattering and I am sure it has a great deal to do with Henson heading the picture but it’s wonderful to see a master of their craft given the spotlight.

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The other standout here is Maya Rudolph who does an absolutely fabulous turn as Bubbles, Phil’s secretary, confidant and effervescent light with a 40s sense of fashion and sass. She shares a few scenes with her former “Bridesmaids” cohort Melissa McCarthy that is much better than expected and if they had just a few more minutes of run time might have fleshed out something more substantial. Far less impressive is the usually on point Joel McHale falling flat as an FBI agent but could have just as easily credited as “Joel McHale reprises his role from “Ted” and I wouldn’t have noticed. Finally, horror and genre fans will be happy to see the one and only “Tarman” Allan Trautman stepping out of his zombie outfit and into the role of an octopus who let’s just say wants something other than brains this go round.

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“The Happytime Murders” can be best summed up with the fact that Katherine Heigel passed on the lead in this – that pretty much says it all.

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SDCC 2018 Recap, Mad Monster AZ 2018, Mission Impossible: Fallout & More – Cult Following Episode #86

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Cult Following is back with an all-new episode! In this one, Victor recaps San Diego Comic-Con 2018, including theBold Voices of Horror panel featuring clips and behind the scenes info from Mandy, Tales from the Hood 2, Suspiria, Summer of 84 and more including the activations for The Purge and Taco Bell’s Demolition Man. Plus we talk about the latest in horror collectibles from Mondo, NECA, and more. Plus reviews of Sorry To Bother You, Skyscraper, Unfriended 2: Dark Web, Mission Impossible: Fallout and Equalizer 2.

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Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

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Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again does a good job of improving upon the concept of its predecessor. Rather the movie trying to fit the music, the songs in this sequel service the story.

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