I'm a huge fan of religious horror, so I had high hopes when I saw the description of this film. I didn't look any further into it, because I've tried to make a habit of avoiding trailers. It seems like so many of them give away the best parts of the movie, leaving me disappointed when I actually see it and realize there's nothing else to be excited about.
Christopher Smith and Laurie Cook were the writers, with Smith also directing, and I felt like they had some great ideas! Their twists on the tropes of childhood trauma and science vs. religion were unique, and the foundations were there for a fantastic story. However, there were elements hardly touched upon that I would have liked to see fleshed out a bit more. A lot of the plot was explained through dialogue, with flashbacks that for the most part, felt jarring and disconnected from the film as a whole. When we found out what was actually happening at the end, there wasn't that, "Ohhhhhh, ok, everything makes sense now," moment. It was clear that they definitely intended to take an unexpected route, but it felt like it shifted so far into unexpected, that it wasn't cohesive.
I really enjoyed the atmosphere though: the locations were absolutely stunning, and it was a brilliant contrast to how unsettling the church was. Seeing vibrant green landscapes paired with foreboding stonework and eerie nighttime scenes, added a lot of personality to the film. The knowledge that convents and churches are intended to be the ultimate safe places (though as horror fans, we know that's not usually how things work out), combines well with the feeling that something sinister hides just under the surface, to set the tone for the majority of the run time.
Danny Huston's performance as Father Romero was by far my favorite of the film. While I've never been a huge fan of Jena Malone, I felt like this was probably the strongest I've seen her.
Though I wasn't really "wowed" by this movie, I can certainly appreciate the aspects of it that were done well. If they had approached the story a bit differently, and gone more in-depth with various aspects of the plot, it would have been a much stronger movie for me. Unfortunately with the overall feeling it left me with, I'd only give it a 2/5.