Tag Archives: Corin Hardy

Hey, Soul Sister

The Nun

by Hope Madden

When we were four, my sister and I wandered off at the Toledo zoo. Nuns found us and reunited us—via lost and found? I don’t remember—with the larger Madden clan. And that’s the thing about nuns: they are either entirely wonderful or entirely terrifying. There is no middle ground.

Corin Hardy knows that. With that knowledge, The Hallows director crafts his little part of The Conjuring universe with a history lesson on that scary sister, The Nun.

His film, written by Gary Dauberman (Annabelle, It) from a story by James Wan, takes us back to the 1950s when the Vatican called upon a priest with a specific set of skills. Fr. Burke (Demián Bichir) investigates the suicide of a cloistered nun in remote Romania, bringing along a novitiate nun, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga – little sister to Conjuring star Vera).

You think nuns are creepy? Well, they fit right in at crumbling old Romanian abbeys. Hardy and cinematographer Maxime Alexandre make glorious use of the location, and then create richly shadowed castle interiors suitable for Dracula himself.

Hardy throws any number of really eerie visuals onscreen as Farmiga’s novitiate (a nun who hasn’t yet taken her final vows) descends into the demonic labyrinth, while Father Burke fights demons (personal and literal) just outside the gate.

Velvety shadows and jump scares, medieval witchery and the now-quaint idea that the Catholic Church can save us—Hardy balances all these items with nostalgia, humor and a fun dose of Conjuring universe odes.

Farmiga brings enough salt-of-the-earthiness with her innocence to make Sr. Irene relatable. Bichir seems less suited to the role of holy man, but as an investigator who smells something rotten, he works out well.

The real treat is Jonas Bloquet as Frenchie, the French-Canadian transport living in Romania who can carry a torch into catacombs with the best of them. He’s funny, his scenes keeping the film from veering into committing the sin of taking itself too seriously and losing its audience.

Where the film comes up short is in imagination. Mainly, it bears far too strong a resemblance to another Irishman’s Catholic horror, Devil’s Doorway, which follows two priests investigating strange phenomenon at a convent only to find something sinister in the tunnels beneath.

Though Devil’s Doorway lacked the visual flair, budget and humor of The Nun, it sidestepped the nostalgia that casts the Catholic Church in such unvarnished light, so it felt a bit more relevant and less disposable.

Still, with a slight, sometimes silly storyline and an awful lot of atmosphere, Hardy manages an entertaining if forgettable 90 minutes.

Beware the Faery Folk

The Hallow

by Hope Madden

Visual showman Corin Hardy has a bit of trickery up his sleeve. His directorial debut The Hallow, for all its superficiality and its recycled horror tropes, offers a tightly wound bit of terror in the ancient Irish wood.

Adam (Joseph Mawle) and Clare (Bojana Novakovic) move, infant Finn in tow, from London to the isolated woods of Ireland so Adam can study a tract of forest the government hopes to sell off to privatization. But the woods don’t take kindly to the encroachment and the interlopers will pay for trespassing.

What’s in the woods and why is it so angry?

“An occupied people forced into hiding by fire and iron,” explains a friendly Irish policemen to the Brit couple helping to sell off Erin’s ancient forests.

Openly influenced by Evil Dead, The Shining, The Thing, and Straw Dogs, among others, the film rarely feels stale for all its rehash. Hardy borrows and spit-shines, but the final amalgamation takes on such a faery tale quality that it generally works. (Except for that Necronomicon-esque book – that’s just a rip off.)

Hardy has a real knack for visual storytelling. His inky forests are both suffocating and isolating with a darkness that seeps into every space in Adam and Clare’s lives. He’s created an atmosphere of malevolence, but the film does not rely on atmosphere alone.

Though all the cliché elements are there – a young couple relocates to an isolated wood to be warned off by angry locals with tales of boogeymen – the curve balls Hardy throws will keep you unnerved and guessing.

A lot of the scares require very little visual effect – one early bit where Adam is knocked into the trunk of his car while something claws and bangs at the door toward his screaming infant is particularly nerve wracking. Still, Hardy’s joy and real gift is in the creature feature half of the film.

The magical folk of the Hallow – “faeries, banshees, and baby stealers” – have a look that is unique, appropriately woodsy, and immensely creepy. And just when you think the film’s reached its peak with this back woods monster mash, Hardy takes a sharp turn with a deeply felt emotional plot twist.

The political allegory doesn’t really pan out; Clare, though well performed, is entirely one-dimensional; the mythology of the sludge, while cool, doesn’t clearly fit with the monsters; and why in the hell do the rest of the natives stay?!

That’s a lot to ponder, but Hardy – magician that he is – will keep you so interested with relentless pacing and horror wonder that you won’t even notice.