As I said in my ScareDiego recap, I was about as excited for The Nun as I was for a trip to the DMV. After seeing the footage, this might just be one of those cases where I have to admit that I was wrong. Under the direction of Corin Hardy, The Nun looks to be a worthy inheritor of The Conjuring title. Every shot I saw was oozing with personality, and Corin’s unique visual style sucks you in so the scares can slap you in the jaw. So naturally, when I had the chance to chat with him at SDCC18, I pounced at the opportunity.
Dread Central: So we all know the drill. David F. Sandburg did his first smaller horror movie (Lights Out), then his installment for The Conjuring universe (Annabelle: Creation), and now Shazam!. My first question for you is, what super hero movie are you doing after The Nun?
Corin Hardy: *laughs* I’d love to do Swamp Thing if I’m able to, but I know they’re not going to be doing that for a while. I’ve loved swamp thing for a long time. Walter Hamada is heading up New Line, The Conjuring universe, and now the head of DC. I know that James [Wan] is doing a Swamp Thing TV show, so maybe I can do an episode of that. There’s not that many left that haven’t been done, are there? I’d definitely be down for something a bit strange.
DC: Speaking of something strange, you mentioned in ScareDiego that you wanted The Nun to feel like something new. From what I’ve seen, it really does.
CH: I think that’s one of the nice things about doing ScareDiego, letting it permeate a little bit. People are expecting certain things, they’ve gotten used to possession movies and haunted houses. The Nun is a new take on a classic environment. Graveyards, cemeteries, mist, lanterns, castles and caverns and convents. Classic horror, we used to see it loads. But not recently, and certainly not like this.
DC: The Nun definitely is very packed visually. The sets were relatively simple, but it was very purposeful. Detailed and crafted, but focused.
CH: I’m coming from a visual background with art departments and effects. So that’s the kind of thing that excites me in terms of going to Romania and filming in rural locations. I don’t want to make a movie that’s all green screen and “modern.” It just doesn’t interest me to hang out in all that. Shooting The Nun, everyday you’re in that really exciting strange place. Underground tunnels, graveyards at night, digging up coffins. When you’re in those real environments, you can turn the lights off, light a candle, and get just incredible atmosphere.
I like the shots to be jam packed. I like the frame to feel full. But also the scale of the movie is great. I read the script, and it wasn’t just some family getting haunted in a small house. James said from the start that we don’t want to repeat ourselves. We want to take the story in a new direction. So I feel lucky to be the person that gets to do that. If it had been all set in a standard family’s house, I wouldn’t be nearly as excited.
DC: I previously talked to David F. Sandburg about Annabelle: Creation, and one of the things he mentioned was how much freedom he had despite working in an established franchise. What was your experience like creating The Nun?
CH: The whole bunch—New Line, Atomic Monster, Peter Safran—the ones that have all done the bunch of these movies. They all like to genuinely make it feel like a family. Everyone says it, but it’s true. Everyone’s excited, we’re all working towards the same goal. It’s a very unique experience.
DC: So your previous film was The Hallow, which brought faeries to their dark and twisted roots and put a mold monster twist on it. With The Nun, how were you able to take this classic idea of a demon and put your own personal touch on it?
CH: A large part of that was building on the environment. Creating an interesting area where this demonic creature could roam in a terrifying way. So much of horror movies is the setting. It’s a character all its own. Once I got my head around going to Romania… there are a lot of geographical challenges in that. Filming in a monastery. You read the script, and it says something like, “the character goes down from the bedroom into the dining hall.” When you actually get on location, you realize it’s a lot more difficult than it looks. There are just so many cramped corridors and twists and turns. I wanted to realize that world, the best level of that world that I could create.
So what I did was pour my heart and soul, my blood, sweat, and tears into making The Nun the same level of quality that James [Wan] had set in his Conjuring films. I think that’s pretty apparent when you look at his films. The level of quality in the talent of the cast, the cinematography, that old school 70’s vibe. I’m a huge fan of 70’s horror, so when I saw The Conjuring I was excited that someone was doing it. I’d seen James’s other films, but when I saw The Conjuring I thought to myself, “this is what I’ve been trying to bring to the table.” So now within that universe I get to go back to the 50’s and start sculpting that environment. Let loose a demon in it, it stands out but blends into one world.
Another big thing for me was doing it for real. I’m not a big fan of CG. Obviously we use visual effects and CG in The Nun, but it was important for me to do it in a way where you were never sure if what you’re seeing is real.
DC: So speaking of the universe, are we going to get more of a sense of who the Nun/Valak is as a character? Or is she more just a mysterious malevolent force?
CH: You’ll definitely get a sense of it, and as an origin story you’ll get to know the whos and whys. But we’re also very conscious of not over-explaining things. There are loads of franchises where you grow to love a character that you know nothing about. Then you find out everything about them in later films, and you’re thinking, “I don’t really want to know this, do I?”
DC: Franchises and sequels in mind, are you going to introduce a character in The Nun that we will see in their own spinoff?
CH: It definitely was part of the conversations. You’ll have to see. There were times when I thought, “should I try to put the Crooked Man in one of these coffins?” But you don’t want to just shoehorn something in. I think if anything, it’s the characters that you’ll want to see more of.
DC: So looking past The Nun, what’s the future look like for Corin Hardy? You want to keep working in horror? You want to do Shazam! 2?
CH: *laughs* I don’t know about Shazam! 2. I’m definitely going to be a fan of horror first and foremost. I’ll always be making them, and I have a number of my own ideas I’d like to do. I’m always looking to make movies where you think it’s one thing, and then something changes within it. So whether its a sci-fi movie, a horror movie, a cop movie, as long as something happens in it to give it a dark and strange twist. So I’ve got a number of my own prospects along those lines that I’m working on.
DC: As a final question, everyone that loves horror wants their own horror to come to life. For aspiring horror creators, what is your advice to them?
CH: It’s the same advice for any genre. If you are passionate about what you’re doing, and you love it enough to just never fucking stop, then that’s it. That’s what you have to do. Just make stuff. Make stuff, show it, talk about it, make more stuff, and just keep doing it. That’s the only way to do it. There are loads of different ways to get to where you want to get to, but all of them are tough. So you just have to really be in love with it. You have to give it everything.
Our time to chat was brief, but I’m glad I got to talk to Corin. It’s easy to become jaded with endless horror franchises, spin-offs, and sequels. Talking to a creator that is genuinely passionate and dedicated to bringing his vision to life is a breath of fresh air. So what about you guys? Excited for The Nun? What superhero should Corin give a horror twist to? Let me know below!