The Conjuring universe has scared millions, but its origins are finally revealed in The Nun. The Conjuring 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.
The 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.
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.
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?