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The Nun is More than Just a Horror Movie

Recently in the scary movie genre, there seems to be an increase in the appearance of female heroines or female leads. Examples include Under the Skin, Hereditary, The Babadook, It, and the newest film from the Conjuring series, The Nun. While this film still presents the familiar horror tropes, it is anything but a cliche walk in the graveyard. It’s also one of the first gore movies I’ve seen that doesn’t have a love story subplot. Since I’ll be discussing the premise of The Nun, this article will be given a rated S for spoilers.

The film takes place in 1950s Romania and begins with the brutal murder and suicide of two nuns. Sister Victoria’s hung body is eventually discovered by the Monastery’s market supplier, Frenchie (although his true name is Maurice), and her death is immediately reported to the Vatican. To solve the strange mystery of Sister Victoria’s suicide, both the priest, detective Father Burke, and nun-in-training, Sister Irene, are recruited to learn the history of the Monastery. Along the way, they run into Frenchie who transports the pair to the religious building. Later in the afternoon, they plan to meet with the nuns to discuss the suicide incident but are informed by the mysterious abbess that the nuns won’t be available to talk until the morning. With Frenchie taking off, Sister Irene and Father Burke spend a few nights in the Monastery. The two end up seeing various disturbing images and learn that the church is being possessed by an ancient evil force posing as various figures, including a nun. The only way to defeat the creature is for a nun to infect the malicious being with the blood of Jesus Christ. All of the nuns attempt to protect the Monastery but are eventually killed one by one.

Frenchie eventually reunites with the two friends after learning of their grim creature and attempts to rescue them. Sister Irene eventually realizes she is the only one who can rid of the monster and decides to take her vows in order to wear the blood of Christ around her neck. She also discovers that Sister’s Victoria death was an act of bravery to prevent the evil from possessing her body, further wreaking havoc on the Monastery. Sister Irene eventually saves the day and destroys the evil being. The movie ends with Sister Irene and Frenchie having an in-depth conversation about his life, while the camera zooms in on an upside down cross mark on his neck, disclosing to the audience that the kind Frenchie has been possessed.

This movie overall presents itself as a feminist piece, moving away from traditional pieces that specifically focus on the male issues (i.e. getting the trophy girl at the end). The majority of the cast is made up of females, allowing this story to be viewed through a different lens. The character of Sister Irene is portrayed as fearless and strong. Despite every risk and a close-death encounter she has with the evil nun, she manages to stay at the Monastery, and learn more about the nuns’ history at the religious building. She’s even shown using her quick wits to rescue Father Burke from being buried alive by ghosts. Sister Irene also discovers the dark history of the church and does all in her power to protect it from the ancient evil forces.

She even takes her vows to become an official nun, in order to take on the responsibility of carrying Christ’s blood to defeat the demon. Frenchie acts as a romantic catalyst in order to create a flirtatious bond between Sister Irene and him. Yet, Sister Irene resists and follows her own path. This demonstrates that her character chooses her own path over relying on a male companion, allowing the audience to take her character seriously. She’s also displayed as a tenacious lead, by taking on the role of the hero, rather than being presented as the typical damsel in distress. This further allows the audience to get a refreshing view of female main characters, and their ability to take on more masculine tasks without a romantic viewpoint.

Another imperative piece to The Nuns were, well the nuns themselves. They are depicted as protectors of the Monastery and often use prayer as a way to ease the terrors caused by the evil nun. Most of the nuns even act as ex machinas when the main leads are close to death; by distracting the monster from further harming the characters. In one specific scene, Sister Irene prays with a massive group of nuns but then realizes minutes later that the nuns were just religious visions. This displays Sister Irene’s depiction of the nuns as strong individuals. They are willing to sacrifice their very lives in order to protect the Monastery and use every strength in their body to protect the evil from getting loose into the world.

Although the film’s plot was rather predictable, it took on a unique angle through the female eyes. It’s safe to say that the horror movie genre has decided to give ladies the leading role and be represented as power leads, rather than eye-candy or weaklings. There is still more work that needs to be done to make women leads taken more seriously in the cinema universe, but The Nun (along with other female kick-ass roles), is a great start to a generation of amazing, independent women.

Alexandra Liebman is a senior at Muhlenberg College, and is currently finishing up her last semester. She is an English major, who loves all thing poetry and literature. In addition to her efforts on Her Campus, Alexandra is on the Publicity and Marketing Chair of her college's chapter of Challah for Hunger, and recently became a campus trendsetter for Her Campus.. When not writing articles or studying, you can find her at the gym, watching Netflix, hanging with her friends, and drinking too much caffeine. Fun fact: She participated in the Disney College program Spring '18 for six months!
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