The unholy evil in holy guise is back in the latest chapter stemming from James Wan’s “Conjuring” universe, with an entire film dedicated to the origin of her horrifying visage.
New Line Cinema’s horror thriller The Nun explores another dark corner of the “Conjuring” universe, whose record-setting films have terrified audiences around the globe..
When a young nun at a cloistered abbey in Romania takes her own life, a priest with a haunted past and a novitiate on the threshold of her final vows are sent by the Vatican to investigate. Together they uncover the order’s unholy secret. Risking not only their lives but their faith and their very souls, they confront a malevolent force in the form of a nun, as the abbey becomes a horrific battleground between the living and the damned.
The new fright-fest, directed by Corin Hardy (The Hallow) and produced by James Wan, and Peter Safran, the latter of whom has produced all the films in “The Conjuring” franchise, delves into the shocking origin of the demonic Nun Valak, who first made her evil presence known in “The Conjuring 2.” Hardy directed The Nun from a screenplay by Gary Dauberman (IT, the “Annabelle” films), from a story by James Wan & Dauberman.
Audiences got their first frightful glimpse of the demonic Nun Valak, who plagued Lorraine Warren’s visions and filled her with dread in the horror hit The Conjuring 2. In “The Nun,” the epic battle of good vs. evil pits a priest with a dark history and a novitiate whose own past isn’t the only thing that haunts her against the blasphemy that is the Demon Nun.
Director Corin Hardy is an award-winning filmmaker, illustrator, sculptor and writer, whose visual style mixes the macabre, the beautiful and the epic to visually dazzling results.
A devout fan of the films, and particularly the Nun character, director Corin Hardy relates, “What I loved about the Nun when I first saw her was the mystery. There was no given explanation for her—but her look and behavior were absolutely petrifying. She has a perfect iconic horror persona about her—the habit obstructs the face and shrouds the body and limbs to make her seem unhuman. It’s as if she glides without her feet touching any ground.”
A producer on this film, James Wan offers, “The idea that something held as sacred and pure as a nun could become twisted in such an evil, supernatural way disturbs people at a very core level.”
In fact, from the moment the entity appeared on screen, Wan and fellow producer Peter Safran knew the Nun had struck a deep psychological chord with the audience. Safran recalls, “She had a relatively small, albeit pivotal, role, so it was incredible how much she resonated with people. We knew instantly the Nun deserved an origin story; people wanted to know where she came from…and why.”
Wan and Safran put Hardy at the helm after seeing his film “The Hallow.” Hardy states, “It was a dream come true to get the call. I knew it was something I could really sink my teeth into and was excited to construct a new portion of the ‘Conjuring’ universe.”
Safran says, “We all loved Corin’s movie and thought he would be the perfect fit. He’s a consummate filmmaker, creating character-driven cinema, and he really understood how to build tension and execute original scares to make audiences scream.”
Screenwriter Gary Dauberman, who also served as an executive producer, was a natural choice to craft the screenplay after penning the hugely successful “Annabelle” and the possessed doll’s origin story, “Annabelle: Creation,” in which the malevolent Nun made a brief appearance.
GARY DAUBERMAN (Story/Screenplay/Executive Producer) is one of the most sought-after writers in Hollywood today. His diverse projects include original content and franchise film series in both film and television.
Dauberman joined the creative team behind “The Conjuring” universe when he wrote the screenplay for “Annabelle,” based on the hauntingly creepy doll that first appeared briefly in James Wan’s “The Conjuring.” “Annabelle” was a massive hit, generating more than $256 million worldwide, making it one of the most profitable films of 2014. He also wrote the sequel, “Annabelle: Creation,” which was released in August 2017. The film was an even a bigger success at the box-office, earning over $305 million worldwide.
Dauberman also co-wrote the screenplay for “It,” the film adaptation of Stephen King’s beloved tome, directed by Andy Muschietti. Released in September 2017, the film broke multiple box-office records, including biggest horror opening ever, earning more than $189 million worldwide on its first weekend. “It” ultimately went on to gross more than $700 million worldwide, making it the top-grossing horror film of all time. Dauberman has also written the film’s sequel, “It: Chapter 2,” which is currently in production and set for release on September 6, 2019.
He is set to both write and direct the next installment of the “Annabelle” franchise, which is slated to go into production in the fall of 2018 and be released on July 3, 2019. Switching gears for “The Curse of La Llorona,” Dauberman serves as producer on the upcoming horror film. Based on the Hispanic legend of the Weeping Woman, the film will be released on April 19, 2019.
“Are You Afraid of the Dark?” is another film written and to be produced by Dauberman. The film, based on the 1990s Nickelodeon series, is set for release on October 11, 2019.
For television, Dauberman is currently writing “Swamp Thing” with Mark Verheiden for Atomic Monster. The series will begin streaming in 2019 on DC Universe.
“The script is so intense,” Hardy states. “Gary is a super talented writer; he really knows this genre because, like me, he loves horror and his passion for it shows. He balanced the story with big ideas and really interesting characters facing horrifying prospects. The story hooks you from the start and never lets you go.”
Demian Bichir, who stars as Father Burke, says that reading the script, he was immediately drawn into the paranormal tale. “I loved the spectacular setting and thought Father Burke was one of the richest characters I’d ever read. And the script was very well-written—so complex, and deep in many different ways.”
Safran reveals that the role of the cleric was written with Mexico native Demian Bichir in mind, noting, “We knew we needed somebody who would embody the gravitas that Father Burke would have to possess, but who could also convey a man struggling with his faith. Demian is a brilliant actor who played each facet of the character believably. We all loved him from his previous work so, truly, he was the first and only call we made.”
Describing his role, Bichir says, “Father Burke is a man of faith and a demon hunter who believes it is possible to save the world one demon at a time. He is a fighter on different fronts; however, he is also haunted by his own demons, and that is the real battle he faces every day of his life.”
The shadow Sister Irene’s doubt casts on her faith is a feeling Father Burke understands all too well, and the director loved the yin and yang of the two characters.
“Father Burke is this slightly eccentric, grizzled priest,” says Hardy. “There is a kind of fatherly quality in the stern way he cares for Sister Irene. He had this shattering experience in his past, and he can’t let anything like that happen to her. He’s desperate to keep her from perishing, both physically and spiritually. Sister Irene is naïve and unsure, and as she endures this ordeal of fear she has to find her strength.
Starring as the novitiate, Sister Irene, Taissa Farmiga was also drawn in by the screenplay. She affirms, “I really enjoyed reading Gary’s script. I think it’s really telling about what kind of writer he is that, in a story that’s terrifying and haunting, he was able to weave in moments of levity for the audience to enjoy along the way. It feels like a roller coaster ride where you have all those thrilling ups and downs.”
Like Father Burke, Sister Irene also has a past littered with pain, and while her troubled youth may have led her to the convent, it is also why she has yet to take her vows. “She is also dealing with inner demons,” Farmiga observes. “As a child, she had visions and dreams that haunted her. As a young woman, the church had welcomed her and encouraged her to devote herself to God by becoming a nun, and she willingly followed that because as she got on that path, the visions faded away. But she never really got an answer for them, and I think the reason she was so open to going on this journey was finding the truth. She is questioning her future, asking: ‘Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing?’”
In crafting the story, Dauberman and Wan immersed it in the rich, dark gothic style afforded by the story’s foreboding setting—a castle in Transylvania, Romania, a place that has strong roots in horror.
In the film, the castle has been taken over by the church and functioned as an abbey for years. Pushing the fear factor further, the abbey is cloistered, and the nuns have imposed upon themselves total separation from the rest of the world.
Dauberman attests, “They’re in a big citadel at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, and they’re all alone. There are long corridors and archways and the big chapel inside—things you don’t see in a typical house. Imagine a young novitiate entering those castle gates. Suddenly, you’re very small against this big backdrop and there are a lot more shadows and places that something frightening could emanate from. It just takes everything scary and amplifies it that much more.”
Wan adds, “These nuns are essentially trapped in this abbey, and they have to deal with basically keeping the lid on this demonic entity that’s been percolating and bubbling to the surface. Trying to stem an evil from coming into our world…that’s classic gothic storytelling.”
And in this ominous fortress, the stakes couldn’t be higher…because nothing is as it seems.