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Nun, The (Blu-ray) (2018)
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Details At A Glance
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-A New Horror Icon
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Gruesome Planet
Featurette-The Conjuring Chronology
Year Of Production
||Cast & Crew
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Pan & Scan/Full Frame
English Dolby Atmos
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Czech Dolby Digital 5.1
Hindi Dolby Digital 5.1
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1
Polish Dolby Digital 5.1
Russian Dolby Digital 5.1
Thai Dolby Digital 5.1
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio
|Original Aspect Ratio
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement
|Action In or After Credits
NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.
The latest addition to the vastly profitable Conjuring-Verse, 2018's The Nun represents another spinoff that further exploits an evil entity originally introduced in one of the franchise's main movies. Putting away the Annabelle doll for a change, The Nun flashes back to the early 1950s to reveal more about the demonic nun figure from 2016's The Conjuring 2, with long-time series screenwriter Gary Dauberman (Annabelle, Annabelle: Creation) endeavouring to write an entire feature film based on this anaemic concept. It's not the worst Conjuring spinoff to date (that dubious honour belongs to 2014's hastily assembled Annabelle), but The Nun underwhelms despite a generous budget and ample talent behind the camera. Although the film is occasionally effective, a threadbare story and an over-reliance on loud bangs handicaps it, though that is just scratching the surface of the problems therein.
In 1952 Romania, villager Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet) discovers the decomposing corpse of a nun hanging outside a remote abbey, the news of which promptly spreads to the Vatican. Concerned about the incident, and determined to learn why a pure soul committed the ultimate sin, Vatican officials send Father Burke (Demián Bichir) to Romania, pairing him with Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) who is preparing to take her vows and pledge a life of service to the church. Burke and Irene enlist Frenchie as their chaperone, travelling across remote terrain to the abbey in order to investigate the suicide, but the situation immediately appears even more ominous than originally assumed. Looking into the abbey's tragic history, Burke identifies a sinister threat in demonic entity Valak (Bonnie Aarons), who seeks to unleash pure evil on the outside world.
Whether the result of reshoots, rewrites or simply Dauberman's original script, The Nun lacks a proper, discernible, soundly conceived narrative, as there is not enough plot to guide the picture through a traditional three-act structure. Indeed, once the main characters arrive at the abbey at the 20-minute mark, the remainder of this spinoff amounts to a meandering collection of scenes involving characters wandering around dark, shadowy locations waiting for an inevitable jump scare. The Nun admittedly works to a certain extent during its first half, but the set-pieces grow repetitive and monotonous, with the limitations of this regrettably slim plot becoming more and more apparent. Although ostensibly an origin story, The Nun barely touches upon Valak's origins beyond an arbitrarily short (one-minute) tale told by one of the characters, though it leaves room for any sequels to bridge the gap between this story's conclusion and Valak's appearance in The Conjuring 2. Furthermore, dialogue is not a strong suit, as lines are often clichéd or obvious, from characters calling after apparitions in the dark ("Hello! Who's there?") to the announcement of "You will find the answers you seek."
Overseeing his second feature film, director Corin Hardy (2015's The Hallows) rarely delivers the type of horror capable of getting under your skin; for the most part, The Nun amounts to repetitive loud noises and jump scares, none of which will stay with you after the end credits expire. Worse, moments of obvious CGI sneak into the picture, which spoils its otherwise old-fashioned aesthetic bolstered by gorgeous Romanian locations and gothic production design. However, Hardy does deliver a few effective set-pieces, such as Frenchie encountering the evil in a darkened forest at night, or another extended night-time sequence involving a cemetery. Unfortunately, these bright spots exclusively occur in the movie's first half, after which the film grows more laboured and lazy. The Nun needed more subtlety and nuance, as opposed to things simply jumping out of the darkness.
In terms of casting, Bloquet's presence as Frenchie unquestionably cheapens the material, preventing The Nun from becoming a truly dark and sinister horror flick. Visibly written to appeal to the younger demographic, his antics are neither witty nor funny - he even has a groan-worthy catchphrase. On a more positive note, Taissa Farmiga (younger sister of The Conjuring star Vera) is credible and sympathetic as Sister Irene, while Bichir makes for a convincing Father Burke. Additionally, The Nun further benefits from Maxime Alexandre's exquisite, measured cinematography - composition and lighting is consistently eye-catching throughout, building a rich sense of atmosphere, while Abel Korzeniowski's original music is suitably intense. It's slick and nicely made, as to be expected from the reported $22 million budget, but there is little else to care about or latch onto aside from the impressive technical specs.
Frustratingly, The Nun actually hints at, and glosses over more interesting narratives. There is surely a worthwhile story to be told about the nuns who inhabited the abbey when Valak took over, while the tale about the abbey's medieval history would likewise be fertile ground for an entire feature. But with such a feeble and underdeveloped narrative in place, The Nun simply cannot sustain itself over its 90-minute runtime, though it does have its moments and it's not a complete bust. As a surface-level contemporary horror movie, it's still watchable for the most part, though your mileage will inevitably vary based on expectations (and viewing conditions, probably).
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Like all Conjuring-Verse pictures to date, 2018's The Nun was shot digitally, with cinematographer Maxime Alexandre (Annabelle: Creation) utilising Arri Alexa cameras to capture the cinematic horrors therein. And just like both The Conjuring 2 and Annabelle: Creation, a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release was initially promised but later cancelled despite exceptional box office receipts and impressive profits. In a first for this franchise, however, a 4K release did materialise overseas, though it's without Dolby Vision and was manufactured in more limited quantities. Unfortunately, Roadshow have only released the movie on regular old 1080p Blu-ray, though it is available to stream on iTunes in 4K with Dolby Vision. Although stylishly shot, the nature of The Nun's photography inherently limits how good the video presentation can look, since it's dark, carries a deliberate colour palette, is very light on noticeable source noise, and is filled with shadowy imagery. (Hell, even the movie's 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release left me somewhat underwhelmed despite noticeable enhancements.) Suffice it to say, this horror flick isn't exactly a flawless fit for 1080p Blu-ray, considering the format's limitations in terms of resolution and colour space. Worse, The Nun is mastered with a mediocre average video bitrate of 25 Mbps, which leaves a fair bit of unused space on this dual-layered BD-50 since the disc doesn't contain much in the way of special features.
Framed at the movie's original aspect ratio of 2.40:1, the best word to describe this AVC-encoded transfer is "inconsistent." It's a standard heavily compressed Roadshow/Warner Bros. joint which alternates between impressive and strictly average, with a few below-par sections in between. The opening sequence looks great for the most part, with the transfer resolving ample textures on skin despite the rampant darkness. And even though the black levels are no match for a High Dynamic Range-enhanced video presentation, blacks are still sufficiently deep, and the transfer doesn't fall victim to unsightly macroblocking during this section. When Frenchie is first seen in bright daylight, colours are pleasing and skin textures are superb, while above-average sharpness capably resolves every hair on his face. A wide shot at 8:50 in brilliant daylight bursts with saturated colours, strong textures and exceptional sharpness. However, during some dark scenes, such as a beat at 18:30, the transfer struggles to resolve highlights and fine textures, leading to noticeable smeariness and a general lack of image tightness. In addition, the smoke which covers the frame leads to minor banding and even macroblocking, which makes one wonder if the person who encoded the transfer was asleep at the wheel. Shadow detail is often underwhelming to boot, particularly on faces in medium or full shots, though it does fluctuate from scene to scene. Additionally, source noise does crop up at times, and unfortunately it tends to look blocky and noticeable (see 72:03). This inconsistently continues throughout the movie - it's clear that the deliberate, polished cinematography was not intended for this level of compression. And as ever for a Roadshow/Warner Bros. transfer, it looks more like a Netflix stream than a high quality disc.
However, when the presentation is free of the more unsightly compression, it's still serviceable and watchable, particularly considering that The Nun is not exactly made for high-brow viewers or serious videophiles. Sufficient detail is resolved most of the time, and Roadshow made no attempt to reduce the video noise which occasionally sneaks in (I'd rather blocky video noise than smeary noise-reduced images). Colours are fine for a Standard Dynamic Range 1080p presentation, with naturalistic skin tones and blood that looks vibrantly red. However, the transfer does lack a degree of vibrancy; for instance, neither vegetation nor flames leap off the screen like they do on the 4K Blu-ray with added HDR. And while black levels are acceptable for a 1080p Blu-ray, they are still somewhat on the milky side at times. And because this is a digital production, the movie does tend to carry a noticeably flat appearance; digitally-created shots (see the climax) in particular look overly smooth and soft, and in need of a textural boost. Aside from the aforementioned minor banding and macroblocking which is thankfully infrequent, I was unable to detect any further anomalies like ringing or aliasing; rather, edges fortunately remain pleasingly sharp throughout. Furthermore, I couldn't detect any unnecessary digital manipulation like edge enhancement or digital noise reduction.
Inconsistent remains the operative word about this Blu-ray transfer. For every beautiful, tight and finely detailed close-up shot of a character's face, there are numerous medium and long shots which look smeary and smooth, in addition to the odd soft shot. It's surprising and disappointing from Roadshow/Warner Bros., especially given the lack of a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray counterpart on the local market. This is just the studio on autopilot again.
English subtitles are available.
Video Ratings Summary
In keeping with other Warner Bros./Roadshow releases, The Nun comes to home video with two primary audio options: a Dolby Atmos track (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core), and a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. As ever, the disc defaults to the inferior 5.1 track, so you'll need to select Atmos from the main menu prior to viewing for the superior aural experience. I focused on the Atmos track for the purposes of this review, but the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is perfectly sufficient for those without a more sophisticated sound system. Indeed, it's mixed a bit louder and has less nuance, meaning it will probably be a better option for those just watching through TV speakers or a soundbar. For those interested, the disc also contains a variety of additional lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in different languages, more than I can list here, including an English descriptive audio track. With that out of the way, the Atmos mix is a nuanced, aggressive and effective, making use of all available channels to create a truly immersive horror soundscape. Valak's roars in the opening sequence are crisp and clear, while smart subwoofer usage accentuates their power and impact. Dialogue is comprehensible and clear throughout, though it is mixed a bit low compared to the loud jump scare sound effects, which is a wholly deliberate design choice for maximum loudness (and perceived impact). The track never sounds too compressed or tinny, with the generous audio bitrate and lossless encoding doing justice to the professionally-mixed audio.
I only have a 7.1 audio set-up and therefore cannot fully assess the Atmos track, specifically the overhead activity, but the mix is still beset with precise placement and surround activity. When it rains during the initial travel to the abbey, the sounds of rainfall inhabit the surround channels to immersive effect. During the set-pieces, unnerving sounds come from all available speakers. One of the more effective moments involves bells at a cemetery, and bells come from all directions - it genuinely sounds like bells are ringing all around you. The original score by Abel Korzeniowski is given excellent presence, filling the surround channels and coming through with pristine clarity. The subwoofer nicely accentuates the score
Audio Ratings Summary
|Surround Channel Use|
A disappointingly scant selection of special features appear on this Blu-ray. As per usual for a Roadshow/Warner Bros. release, the disc menu amounts to a basic static image set to music.
A New Horror Icon (HD; 5:18) In this brief, puffy EPK featurette, several cast and crew speak about the Conjuring movies, the first appearance of Valak in The Conjuring 2, the look of Valak, and other behind-the-scenes aspects. It's all intercut with plenty of B-roll footage showing make-up application and scenes being shot. It appears that all of the interviews were taken before anyone saw the finished result, because cast and crew seem convinced that they've created a great horror movie.
Gruesome Planet (HD; 6:18) This second behind-the-scenes segment is more focused on the locations of The Nun. The movie was shot on location in Romania, and various authentic ancient castles were used to stand in for the central abbey where all the horrors unfold. There's a fair bit of on-set footage here showing the truly magnificent locations, intercut with voiceovers and interviews with cast and crew.
The Conjuring Chronology (HD; 3:50) As implied by the title, this is a brief overview of the movies set within the Conjuring universe. Directors of each of the movies get a chance to speak. This acts as an advertisement for the previous flicks, and plays out much like a YouTube promo.
Deleted Scenes (HD; 12:18) Seven deleted scenes totalling 12 minutes are included here, which can either be viewed individually or via a "Play All" function. Although each scene is nicely shot and suitably polished, it's easy to understand why many of these were excluded from the final cut - it's just inessential additional material. There are a few extra "creepy" moments but nothing that's actually scary. The scenes included are as follows:
- Sc 5-7 - Burke Hears Boy's Confession (1:31)
- Sc 10 - Burke Visits Irene - Irene Leaves the Convent (1:26)
- Sc 44-49 - Burke and Irene Discuss the Duke's Books then Enter the Abbey (3:19)
- Sc 60 - Burke Prays (1:20)
- Sc 62 - Irene Wakes in Her Room - Sees Rosary Nun - Explores the Corridors (00:59)
- Sc 87-94 - Sister Christian and Others Tell Irene the Backstory of the Duke, the Abbey and the Nun (2:57)
- Sc 108-11 - Burke and Irene Discuss Having Faith (1:01)
R4 vs R1
NOTE: To view
non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually
also NTSC compatible.
Special features and video encodes are identical on all 1080p Blu-ray releases worldwide. However, a superior 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray is available in the United States. Therefore, the U.S. edition is the winner, assuming you're 4K-compatible. For those with only a 1080p set-up, it's a draw and the local release is fine.
Especially in the shadow of 2017's surprisingly solid Annabelle: Creation, to say nothing of the two very solid Conjuring films, The Nun is an overall disappointment. It's too interested in repetitive loud bangs, with a squiffy narrative structure and not enough imagination. It will fulfil a basic need, but it won't linger on the mind or get under your skin like the best horror films can do.
The Blu-ray is very much in line with expectations. The technical presentation is pretty good for the most part, with a standout Atmos audio mix, while the 1080p transfer is watchable but inconsistent. And there isn't much in the way of extras. If you like the movie, it's worth grabbing at sale price. For everybody else, try before you buy.
© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Thursday, June 06, 2019
|DVD||Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.
This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
|Amplification||Samsung Series 7 HT-J7750W|
|Speakers||Samsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up|
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