Pardon my Protestant upbringing, but I have always considered nuns in head-to-toe black burkas – oops, I mean habits – to be creepy in the extreme. So this new-age horror flick, set in a monastery, was guaranteed to give me the heebie jeebies – except that it didn’t. Co-written by Australian James Wan, who has made a name for himself with the Saw movies, as well The Conjuring 1 and 2 (to which this is the prequel), there is no segment longer than five minutes that allows for plot development before some crazed, cadaverous nun with pointy devil’s teeth comes snarling out of the shadows. It’s like an old-fashioned chamber oaf horrors designed strictly for kids at a theme park. To this old-school lover of a good fright, one of the scariest-ever scenes in cinema was when the hand appeared from the grave in Brian De Palma’s Carrie. It worked so well because it came at the end, when we were least expecting it. The current fashion for quick-now!, encouraged by a mania for CGI that caters to a snap-chat generation unwilling to concentrate for longer than those five minutes that director Corin Hardy daren’t exceed, is tiresome in the extreme. Basically, the story, set in Romania, 1952, is about an exorcism. Taking time off from deciding where to hide its paedophiles, the Vatican sends a priest (Demián Bichir) to sort out a problem in Romania. He will be assisted by a novice (Taissa Farmiga, sister of C2’s Vera – a cute touch). They pick up a handsome French Canadian peasant on the way (Jonas Bloquet), who provides some comic relief and is handy when the trio foolishly venture into catacombs in search of the mother superior. The art direction is suitably gothic, but there are far too few daytime shots. That the other sisters look like models from a glossy fashion zine is not in the least surprising, but as far as satanic possessions go, it’s not in the same street as Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby.
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