Luis de la Madrid‘s 2005 ghost story The Nun (La Monja) isn’t a terrible movie by any stretch, though that’s not to imply that it’s particularly good, because it isn’t.
Though the greater crime is that there are stirrings of greatness not too far below the surface, which are never given a chance to bloom into horrific life.
First off, the movie shows its ghost with the most way too much, though I think I understand why.
Whenever the ghost appears it’s accompanied by an interesting visual effect: water flowing backward and in slow motion, filling the air like a curtain of light. The problem is that, once you have seen the bogeyman, it–if not loses all power to frighten certainly suffers diminished potency–and you begin to see it for what it is, namely an interesting visual effect and little else.
Often, particularly in the case of horror films which by their very nature depend upon the suspension of belief, less is more. If the film had–instead of showing their monster at seemingly every available opportunity–had instead showed some restraint, the movie would have benefitted immensely.
Another problem was that there were too many instances of things happening just because the script needed them to, as opposed to anyone acting in a fashion normal human beings would. For instance, when the Scooby Gang was investigating the school that the nun worked at while alive Gabriel (Manu Fullola, who looks like a better built version of Johan Libéreau from The Witnesses (Les Témoins)) and Eve (Anita Briem) eventually make their way to Sister Úrsula’s room.
And knowing full well that Eve was spooked by the entire situation, he then feels the need to leave her.
And she stays in the the dead nun’s room! There is no way on earth that A) Gabriel would have left me alone in the room without a damn good reason and B) There’s no way on earth I would have stayed in that room alone regardless of that reason.
But the story needed her to be there, so there she stayed, common sense and logic be damned.
Though I don’t mean to imply the whole movie was either mediocre and acted entirely for the benefit of the script because there are some genuinely interesting moments. For instance, when the movie reveals how Sister Úrsula was able to do what she did was a genuinely clever reveal. Unfortunately, so much good will was lost prior to that point that it was sort of like pissing into the wind.
And we all know what happens when you do that.
And the thing is, the same people behind The Nun were also behind REC, which came two years later, so you not only know that there’s some serious talent involved, but that they hadn’t yet come into their own.
The Nun (La Monja) and The Witnesses (Les Témoins) are currently on Neflix.