The demon nun Valak, introduced in ‘The Conjuring 2’ returns to terrorise audiences this September in ‘The Nun’, a movie which follows the story of a priest (Demián Bichir) and his assistant (Taissa Farmiga) as they travel to from the Vatican to Romania to investigate a nun’s mysterious death and wind up encountering the supernatural figure.

How does THE NUN fit into the Conjuring film universe?

It was important to me to honor what has been set up in the Conjuring universe but telling you about some of those connections would reveal a little too much, and I want to preserve the surprises!  At the same time, I wanted to give audiences something new, something a little different from what they might expect. In this film, we follow an exorcist, a novitiate nun in training and a French-Canadian guide on a journey that takes them to an abbey in the mountains of Romania, to investigate the apparent suicide of a nun. I wanted to transport the audience along with these investigators as they embark on their mysterious mission and inject it with a bit more action and adventure. As such it’s a slightly different type of movie compared to what has come before…

When you read the script, what did you want to bring to THE NUN?

I loved that THE NUN is set in 1952 and in a castle in Romania – making the story feel both new and ancient. I wanted to take audiences on an unholy, terrifying journey.  It gave me a real opportunity to incorporate classic horror imagery this time around.  Using castles, convents, cemeteries, hanging fog, gaslight, candlelight, stained glass and gothic horror, we created a rich, contrasting and immersive.

It must have been an adventure for you and the production to film in Romania? 
Absolutely! It was a wonderful opportunity to actually make a movie in Transylvania, which was home to the classic Dracula. We started production in Bucharest, where we had our studio and built certain sets. But we also traveled to far-reaching locations up in the Transylvanian mountains, to Corvin Castle, Sighisoara, and rural Romanian villages. It was as authentic as I could hope for. I was able to tick a lot of boxes off my list, after working in and around ancient crumbling convents, an ice house and a castle. We had a mixed crew – from the U.S., Europe and Romania. It was a formidable challenge for our production designer, Jennifer Spence and her team to build and enhance castle locations that were seven hours away from our home base / studio. My director of photography Maxime Alexandre brought techno-cranes and tracks into some pretty challenging environments! And it was a childhood dream to work with ADI [Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc.], which did our character/creature effects. They have been heroes of mine since I grew up wanting to be a monster maker and FX artist, and have worked on so many iconic genre films, like Pumpkinhead, Aliens, Alien 3 and many, many others – most recently, It and Annabelle Creation.

Bonnie Aarons reprises her role as The Nun from The Conjuring 2.  Did you know her from that film?

I wasn’t familiar with Bonnie, but I knew she had to return for THE NUN.  Bonnie has one of those classic faces and personalities.  Later, I remembered that she had been in Mulholland Drive ¬– and that her performance had nearly given me a heart attack.  There’s a moment in that film when she plays a homeless person at the end of an alley, and she comes out from behind a wall, and she is incredibly frightening in just a single brief shot.

THE NUN is an origin movie and you get to find out where this character came from, and where Valak came from.  So, we get to show more of The Nun and explain a little more about her.  But we also didn’t want to show too much or explain too much.  Being a fan of the horror genre, I think it can be a mistake to explain too much about a character like this.  Every character needs to remain a little mysterious to stay scary.

What do you hope audiences experience when they see THE NUN?

I’m a big believer in experiencing movies in the cinema on the biggest screen possible and watching a horror movie in a crowd together is such a unique and fun, shared experience. I want to take audiences on a scary, spooky ride where they can become fully immersed along with our characters, as they follow them into this mysterious and terrifying world of shadows and prayers, and nuns and demons – to discover the truth of who, and indeed what lurks in the dark tunnels of that ancient abbey.

THE NUN is at Irish cinemas from Sept 7th