-MONTHLY FILM & TV REVIEW-
cast: Anita Briem, Manu Fullola, Cristina Piaget, Alistair Freeland, and Tete Delgado
director: Luis de la Madrid
97 minutes (15) 2005
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Lions Gate DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Paul Higson
It probably seemed like a good premise on paper: a watery, spectral nun slays her murderers
20 years on, in the manner of the fates of the saints after whom they have been named. The
plot transposed to the UK might not work, as there is no St Kylie or St Wendy to my knowledge.
As much as this might sound like the ideal horror plot for a Spanish production, director
Luis de la Madrid has royally botched it on his film The Nun (aka: La Monja).
There could have been plenty of play with saints' names in relation to horrible ends as most
Spaniards have more than one. Despite some goriness however there is little real trepidation
or effective horror in The Nun. It is impossible to identify with or care for the dull
and unimaginative characters and the ill thought out twist is no more than a bit of reckless
and desperate thievery (from Angel Heart amongst others), which makes little sense. The
film may not have a Kylie but it does have a Zoey, which I still find hard to believe is a real
A Filmax International/ Fantastic Factory production in association with British outfit Future
Films, it sports the familiar names of Julio Fernandez and Brian Yuzna overseeing and a script
by Manu Diez drawing on an original story idea by Jaume Balaguero. For the most part, these are
the usual suspects but filmhouse and key personnel productivity aside; their reputations have
been in an increasing slump over recent years. There is little reason to enthuse over seeing
The Nun and seeing it is only going to deteriorate reputations further. The Nun
has been dawdling in our direction though, completed in 2005, and since then the studio and
two of its directors, Balagueró (Darkness, Fragile), and Paco Plaza
(Romasanta), have enhanced their status no end with co-direction on
There is, however, a gulf in the quality difference between [REC] and The Nun.
La Virgen de la Penitencia International School is an unreal educational centre in an unreal
world that's populated by unrealised characters. At this point I am tempted to try and sneak
out of the paragraph and close my laptop. The convent school takes in girls from around the
world, though predominantly the US, the UK and Spain, coincidentally the three markets that
the film is targeting and the three countries funding this film. The school seems only to
have six students and they are cruelly educated by mean nun Sister Ursula, who chides one
girl Eulalia on her physical disability, deserving her leg brace for no particular reason
other than bitch horribleness. The convent life seems to have had some effect on the girls
as in adulthood only one of them, Mary (Lola Marceli) has a daughter, the 18-year-old Eve
(Anita Briem). Mary is murdered by the wet phantom in her kitchen just as she is about to
fly out to Spain for a reunion with the old girls following the flaming death of the former
classmate from London.
When Christy (Tete Delgado) bleeds to death following the very public loss of her arms
above the elbow in a lift accident (the indignity doubled as she is drenched as a result
of a touch of toilet backsplash), Eve, who has twice seen the uncanny Ursula swimming the
air and then the revolving doors, registers something a little above the normal is afoot.
She's alert, this girl. As Eve's best friend Joel (Alastair Freedland) and his Spanish
girlfriend Julia (Belen Blanco) were journeying to Barcelona for the summer break she
accepts their invite to join them with the intention of investigating the history and
hopefully solving the mystery of the floating nun.
Conducting research in the library she meets a theology student, Gabriel (Manu Fullola)
and admits that she doesn't understand a word of Spanish she is photocopying page upon
page of. So she was going to pretend to investigate, is that it? Gabriel agrees to translate
for her. The young man plans to go into the priesthood, the turning point in his life having
been the loss of his girlfriend in a fatal car accident. Gabriel had been living it up like
any normal young man but nobody believed him when he said he had not been drinking before
taking the wheel, because, hey, this is Spain in 2005, a backward country, clearly, as they
have no way of determining whether someone has been consuming alcohol or popping pills. The
adult Eulalia (Oriana Bonet) has learned to hobble magnificently over the years and is
crucified in her bathroom before the kids can reach her.
The survivors descend upon the deserted school and the story moves towards its ridiculous
finale. There are some nice effects. The watery ghost springing in avante poses and splashing
through her victims as if marking them before going in for the kill is a particularly favourable
touch. The film is more adamantly cursed, though, by unnecessary nonsense and stupidity. The
characters are dim and dull. They fail to respond with appropriate horror to the bloody messes
left behind by the supernatural killer.
When an alternative version of what has occurred at each murder scene is presented at the
end of the film in a montage pathetically hoping to evoke the closing revelations of The
Usual Suspects and Angel Heart, unlike those movies it is untidy, like trying to
wedge the wrong bricks into the wrong holes in an intelligence test. The dialogue is wretched
and all the more irritating when references to other films are made with a couple of non-jokes
from the non-characters: "Welcome to the nun witch project!" and "What is this?
I know what you did 18 summers ago, or something?" come from the same pillock. Yes, almost
as rip-roaringly hilarious as Kevin Williamson's "What is this? I spit on my garage?"
- line from Scream. The film endears itself to us none. One for the bin, I'm afraid.
Some sins are unforgivable.