Sequels, remakes and reboots typically double, or triple, down on what worked the first time.
In the case of “The Nun,” the latest shocker from “The Conjuring” franchise, it means the good versus evil motif will get a serious workout, according to director Corin Hardy.
Faith has been “a big part of the Conjuring universe,” Hardy says. “It’s most potent, perhaps, with ‘The Nun.’”
The new film, the fifth in the horror universe, casts Demian Bichir as a veteran priest who teams with a nun (Taissa Farmiga) to uproot an evil presence.
“It’s an ancient creature impersonating something highly sacred and good,” he says.
That presence appeared dramatically in the first “Conjuring” sequel and, evidently, made a large enough impression to generate an origin film of its own.
The series began with 2013’s “The Conjuring,” a smash depicting the real-life husband and wife team of Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson). The paranormal investigators battled demons in the first film, a tale loosely adapted from the couple’s colorful, and controversial, history.
Director James Wan didn’t mock the Warrens or treat their Christian faith lightly. Instead, the filmmaker leveraged their strong bond and morality. Now, Hardy gets his turn at the franchise wheels, following his well-regarded horror debut “The Hallow” (2015). Wan is still on board, serving as “The Nun’s” executive producer.
— The Nun (@thenunmovie) August 24, 2018
Hardy and his team shot “The Nun” exclusively in Romania, a decision which directly influenced the look and feel of the thriller.
“It’s a classic gothic horror setting,” Hardy says of the production, which took place in and around Bucharest and Transylvania. The location shooting, he adds, brought “rich textures” to his canvas.
Two 14th-century castles and an abandoned medieval fort allowed Hardy to embellish the franchise with practical flourishes whenever possible.
“We scouted a lot of difficult to come by locations, rural towns to convents,” he says. “That really added to the flavor of the movie.”
FAST FACT: “The Conjuring” franchise crossed the $1 billion mark at the box office in 2017 following the release of “Annabelle: Creation.”
Hardy, an illustrator and sculptor in his spare time, began creating FX creations at the tender age of 12. Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion creatures lit the fuse, fueling several Super 8 films chockablock with homemade monsters.
He found FX work in his teen years, including theater productions at the Royal National Ballet and the film “First Knight.”
Now, he’s tasked with extending a profitable, faith-friendly franchise on top of something horror fans fear most. Explaining what appears to be the unexplainable: Nun Valak.
“Bates Motel” successfully told the origin story of Norman Bates. “Hannibal Rising,” by contrast, failed to capture the dawn of Anthony Hopkins’ serial killer.
The challenge didn’t escape Hardy or his team when it came to Nun Valak.
“It’s something we were all conscious of from the word go,” says Hardy, a self described horror fan. Filling in a beloved villain’s back story is fraught with complications, not to mention the fear of making a monster all too human.
With Nun Valak, he figured the character’s modest screen history deserved more attention.
“We’d only seen the Nun for about six minutes in ‘The Conjuring 2.’ She captured people’s imagination and hunger. We wanted to see more, learn more,” he says.