The Conjuring universe has scared millions, but its origins are finally revealed in The Nun. A spinoff prequel set decades before the rest of the Conjuring universe’s hauntings, fans will want to know: how much of this story is actually true?
If not true, then how much of it is based on or inspired by the very real paranormal investigations carried out by Ed and Lorraine Warren. Actors Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga have made the Warrens household names for horror fans, but previous films have made some tenuous connections between fact, fiction, and fantasy. And by now, horror fans know they’re likely not seeing a faithful account of how the original story unfolded.
he Nun may be a similar case, but real figures, locations, and accounts of demonic possession do act as the basis of large parts of the movie… more than some will expect.
YES, VALAK THE PRESIDENT OF HELL IS A REAL DEMON
We hope readers will understand that saying any demon is “real” or fictional means drawing a line not between true or false, but between creation for the film, and referencing established demonic history. And while Valak taking this specific appearance in The Conjuring universe is a style choice by the filmmakers, the demon itself is known quite well to demonologists, holding the same rank and titles as communicated in the movie.
We’ll stop short of diving any deeper into the categories and names of the 72 demons codified in the Ars Goetia of the Lesser Key of Solomon one of the most iconic, 17th Century texts on demons and demonology (and seen as a compilation of some texts that go back even farther into the 1400s). Curious readers can head down those rabbit holes on their own. All movie fans likely want to know is that: yes, “Valak” or “Valac” is one of those demons. Although he is usually depicted as a young boy with angel’s wings, who rides a two-headed dragon and can deliver those who contact him into either treasures or serpents.
But the movie appearance of Valak is also related to some real-life inspirations from Lorraine Warren herself.
A NUN-LIKE FIGURE REALLY DID HAUNT LORRAINE WARREN
The white faced, habit-ed, demonic nun isn’t connected to the traditional appearance of the demon Valak – but is it based on anything other than Hollywood marketing? Surprisingly, yes. While making the press rounds for The Conjuring 2, where The Nun first emerged as the real antagonist of the series haunting Lorraine Warren (Farmiga), director James Wan explained the origin to i09:
From talking to Lorraine in passing, she mentioned a spectral entity that has haunted her in her house. And it’s this swirling tornado vortex with this hooded figure in there, and I remember hearing that and my first thought was, ‘Oh crap, that’s going to be a CGI character.’ I didn’t want to do that. And so, it kind of took me a while to cement in my head what this vision was. And it came across eventually in a very organic way.
Because it is a demonic vision that haunts her, that only attacks her, I wanted something that would attack her faith. Something that would threaten the safety of her husband. And so that was eventually how the idea of this very iconographic image of a holy icon cemented in my head.
So there you have it, The Nun is visually inspired by the actual entity seen by the real-world Lorraine. That helps to explain Valak’s role in The Conjuring 2 – being tied to Lorraine specifically through visions – but The Nun is intended to be a prequel, telling its own story.
So is the monastery real, along with the odd nun murders, and rift to Hell blown open during World War II ?
THE FILM IS SET AT THE REAL CÂRȚA MONASTERY
The building where the nun intrigue takes place in the film is referred to as “The Abbey of St. Carta,” located – predictably – in Transylvania. And believe it or not, that really does seem to be based on the Cârța Monastery, or Abbey of Carta, located in the mountainous heart of Romania. A monastery erected as early as the year 1202 which, like the film, was home to monk and nuns referred to as “white,” due to their wearing white habits, not black. But while impressive in the grand scheme of history, the real location is nowhere near as extravagant (or haunting) as the version arrived at in the movie.
The bad news? The Cârța Monastery had its Cistercian monks evicted by the King of Hungary around 1494. When the events of The Nun depict the Abbey in full operation as recently as 1952, the real-world monastery had been reduced to a handful of the stone walls (while the rest of the original wooden structure had been worn away by time. Today, residents of the area congregate on the site to practice Evangelical services. But there’s no question that historic name and location were chosen as a link to reality – not as an intent to recreate it.
A TRUE ‘NUN POSSESSION’ DID HAPPEN IN ROMANIA
Interestingly though, the selection of Romania for The Nun may not be an accident, either. Considering the previous Conjuring films tied into real-world events like the Amityville and Enfield phenomena, it would be strange if The Nun ignored real supernatural history entirely. But if movie fans were to do a bit of digging into Romanian exorcisms that gained notoriety, they would find one. A ‘haunting’ which took place in 2005, not 1952. Of course, not everyone saw it that way.
The believed possession and subsequent criminal trial made the Tanacu Exorcism a widely-covered case. It began when a 23 year-old woman sought out the monastery, and soon began acting strangely. Doctors diagnosed schizophrenia, but those around her believed to be witnessing a demonic possession. The resulting exorcism tragically cost the nun her life, with those responsible sentenced to jail time.
Separate, these accounts and details have little connecting them. But placed into one large, creative melting pot, they show just how outlandish or original a film can be while still claiming to have been “inspired by real events.”
THE REFERENCES ARE REAL, THE MOVIE STORY ISN’T (OBVIOUSLY)
No horror movie fans needs us to confirm that there was not a reliable, confirmed case of a demonic nun terrorizing a convent, monastery, or any other religious residence. All things considered, the fact that The Nun connects The Conjuring and Annabelle to the origin of the Warrens’ investigations, while actually being the sixth movie released should leave little doubt that it’s fiction intended to stitch separate incidents together.
The closest one could claim that The Nun comes to being based on a real-world event would be Lorraine Warren’s vision of a dark, hooded figure. That’s less concrete experience upon which to build a story than any Conjuring film thus far, so perhaps the filmmakers can be afforded a freebie (since The Nun isn’t boasting the same ties to true accounts or happenings as previous entries).
As for cinematic inspirations and meta filmmaking, the similarities to countless other horror tales can’t be ignored (in which two supernatural warriors arrive to encounter unspeakable evil). Factor the murder mystery taking place in a monastery, and Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of The Rose comes to mind. No surprise, then, that producer James Wan describes The Nun as a cross between that narrative and The Conjuringspirit.