It's possible the people behind the Conjuring series had the prequel fiction in mind from the start when the first movie dropped in 2013, but a more likely explanation is that horror has enjoyed a major resurgence in the last decade and there was money to be made.
Enter The Nun, a prequel to the others and a fun, sometimes-scary late-summer popcorn flick starring what's-her-face from American Horror Story (Taissa Farmiga, who of course is related to The Conjuring's Vera Farmiga), some dude as a priest (Demián Bichir) and some other dude as the French Canadian version of deus ex machina (Jonas Bloquet).
Spooky goings-on abound in an ancient convent in the hills of Romania, so when a nun from the cloister offs herself (the ultimate sin in Catholicism, we're told), the Vatican sends their best evil and/or miracles investigator to see what's up. Turns out an evil presence has been tearing it up out there and messing with the hundreds of years of perpetual adoration maintained by the nuns. Supernatural devil stuff ensues with minimal hints to the principal characters' back stories, subtle nods to the property's outlying universe and any number of "Did that actually just happen?!" jump scares.
This makes The Nun feel exhilarating at times, even if it suffers from disjointed filler scenes that only seem to exist as setup to the run-ins with the demon, who appears as a sincerely frightening nun. It's the eyes, y'know? The eyes. Actors' erformances, meanwhile, are serviceable, though they usually have more to do with wide-eyed heavy breathing than actual acting; we are given minimal information about demonology and something about Knights Templar. Whatevs.
But we didn't show up because we hoped for the contemporary horror equivalent of Citizen Kane—we showed up because the monster is scary, the jump scares are plenty and we need distractions from these waning warm days. Add another notch to your horror movie record for sure, and enjoy the spooks—just don't think about anything too hard.
+That demon is spooky; pretty fun
-Won't hold up to scrutiny; frustrating character actions
Directed by Corin Hardy
With Farmiga, Bichir and Bloquet
Violet Crown, Regal, R, 96 min.