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Thursday, July 2, 2020

[Review] Netflix’s “Warrior Nun” Applies Exciting High Concept Catholic Horror to “Buffy” Formula

Nothing about Netflix’s latest series hints at the depth of intrigue, heady themes, and the high entertainment value it contains. Both its title and premise suggest something schlocky, like a B-movie religious twist to Buffy the Vampire Slayer made strictly for teens. While Warrior Nun does borrow heavily from Buffy, and the Hero’s journey for that matter, it uses it as a base foundation to create something far more mysterious and engaging, without sacrificing significant thrills.

Based on the manga-style comic book Warrior Nun ArealaWarrior Nun revolves around 19-year-old Ava (Alba Baptista), a recently deceased quadriplegic orphan. When an ongoing battle between heaven and hell spills over into the morgue, Ava is revived, thanks to an ancient artifact. Granted a new lease on life with superhuman abilities, the teen finds herself part of a religious order tasked with ridding the world of demons. Navigating the dangers of her new life becomes trickier when both sides of the war are desperate to control or kill her.

Showrunner and series creator Simon Barry kicks off this series with a more lighthearted introduction to his heroine. Ava is a sarcastic teen with a major playful streak. It’s understandable; she’s been paralyzed and bedridden for more than half her life, so just about everything she’s experiencing is a first for her. Like Buffy, Ava desires to be an average teen, something she was never afforded before. Also, like Buffy, is Ava’s emerging hormones and the inner dialogue that narrates her feelings over her first crush. It’s all bubble gum cute, and the precise type of thing you’d expect from a teen action horror show…until it’s not.  

After meet-cute intros are out of the way, Barry plummets the viewer into the deep end of a centuries-long battle with an ever-growing complex web of mystery. It turns out that Ava’s recent gift came at the expense of the previous owner of the artifact, putting her at odds with the Catholic order. The dynamics between her and order members Father Vincent (Tristán Ulloa), Sister Beatrice (Kristina Tonteri-Young), Sister Lilith (Lorena Andrea), Shotgun Mary (Toya Turner), and the icy Mother Superion (Sylvia De Fanti) create enough drama and conflict. That’s only the bare tip of the iceberg. Throw in a lot of demons, a less than trustworthy cardinal, and highly ambitious scientist Thekla Reuten (Jillian Salvius), and this plot grows increasingly more intriguing and sophisticated by the minute.

What’s most impressive is the way that Barry organically transforms the story from pure Buffy-lite teen horror into a heady, meditative examination on religion, faith, and existence. That’s not to say Warrior Nun is a preachy affair; in fact, this series is bound to draw substantial ire for its controversial depictions of the Vatican and Catholic imagery. Not just imagery either; these young nuns are hardly saints- there’s a lot of violence and sexuality involved. This series weaves its many mysteries around the way history can change over time, and how science and religion aren’t so unalike after all. Despite a silly name and setup, this series offers up plenty of mind-blowing twists and action fantasy fun, but it emphasizes the cerebral.

Because Warrior Nun is story and character-focused, the horror isn’t as prominent, though there’s plenty of epic otherworldly battles, and the series never shies away from the blood-letting. Set mostly in contemporary Spain, the set pieces, fight choreography, and action sequences are awe-inspiring. A talented cast matches it. Baptista introduces us to a spirited teen, but her evolution into an insecure young woman thrust into a commanding position she didn’t want is engaging. Stealing every scene is Turner’s Mary, a tough-as-nails warrior with major vulnerability, offering Ava an unexpected ally and mentor in the journey.

With a silly title like Warrior Nun and a premise suggestive of another teen Buffy by way of Catholic horror, Netflix’s latest has vast potential to get slept on. The surprising reality is that Warrior Nun slowly reveals itself, throughout its 10-episode inaugural season, to be something special. A singular Hero’s journey with a witty teen antihero transforms into an epic, ensemble story that’s refreshingly ballsy and mature in the way it tackles oft controversial subject matter. By season’s end, Warrior Nun becomes full-throttle action horror with serious stakes, making this an insanely pleasant surprise that’ll leave you clamoring for more. Ignore the dumb name and hit play.

Warrior Nun arrives on Netflix on July 2, 2020.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3622031/review-netflixs-warrior-nun-applies-exciting-high-concept-catholic-horror-buffy-formula-embargo-lifts-7-2/

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