A Fun Film for Friends
In 1956 France, a string of priests were murdered in a demonic fashion, from hangings by fire. Taissa Farmiga returns to The Conjuring Universe as Sister Irene to investigate the familiar calling cards of Valak. It is leading her back to a French boarding school where Maurice, the groundskeeper, is unknowingly harboring a demonic infestation. Directed by Michael Chaves and produced by The Safran Company and Atomic Monster. The Nun II is the ninth entry into The Conjuring Universe and is in theaters now. Beautifully designed horror set pieces and a newly iconic monster are a welcome addition to the franchise that started back in 2013 with The Conjuring. The Nun II is not perfect, but thankfully it is a good time at the theaters with a group of friends.
A Paranormal Plot
The Conjuring Universe returns with its ninth entry in the series, The Nun II. The Nun II is somewhat plagued by the basic tropes that so many other horror films use. Jump scare after jump scare does little to serve the story and all but move the audience further away from being invested. The film drags a bit because of its questionable plot and does little to flesh out the mythology and themes it is based on. In turn, the audience may care little for the story itself but may find themselves invested more in the characters and their fate.
The first half is a slower-paced build peppered with jump scares that do not really serve a purpose other than to be scary. While this movie’s set pieces, creative elements, and art department did a really good job of designing the monsters and drawing out the scariest parts of the movie, it was unfortunately not enough to save this movie from being a bit of a jumpy mess that tries to force the viewer into being scared. However, the great parts of this movie are the saving grace that really shines through.
The Nun II returns roughly four years after the events of The Nun, where Sister Irene, with the help of Father Bishop, defeated the demon nun Valak at Saint Cartha’s Monastery in Romania. Maurice saves her at the last moment. After which, the demon possesses him under Irene’s nose.
When a string of Catholic priests are brutally murdered across Europe, Sister Irene and her newly befriended Sister Debra (played by Storm Reid of The Last of Us and Euphoria) make their way to a small village in France where the demon is terrorizing a girl’s boarding school. In their attempts to figure out why Valak has returned, Irene’s mysterious past is revealed, and her battle with Valak takes on a whole new meaning as she attempts to save her friend Maurice and the students at the boarding school. The plot of The Nun II takes a back seat so that its characters are able to shine if not burst through with their acting chops.
Thank God for Sister Irene
Taissa Farmiga and Jonas Bloquet’s characters return to take the cake; their respectable and almost undeniably great performances keep the movie afloat. Farmiga delivers a commanding role as a more confident Sister Irene, much like her real-life sister, Vera Farmiga, who plays Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring Universe. These ladies sure can act! Storm Reid’s portrayal as Sister Debra, a novice nun in a crisis of faith, is a strong addition to the film and the series. Her composure brings a deeper level of understanding to the character of Sister Debra.
Maurice (Jonas Bloquet), the groundskeeper of the girl’s boarding school in France, returns. His heart throbby vibe is a refreshing role as the nice guy who wants the girl but gets possessed instead. His budding romance with the teacher Kate, played by Anna Popplewell (The Chronicles of Narnia) serves to elevate the stakes and add the possibility of a happy ending for the character of Maurice, even though his grim fate is revealed by Ed (played by Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring. Popplewell made a notable return to form since her first leading role in the show Reign (2013-2016). As always, Bonnie Aarons returns to reprise her role as the terrifying Valak, originally starting this role in 2016’s The Conjuring 2. Valak has been the token monster for three films in this series (The Conjuring 2, The Nun, and The Nun II).
1950s France, but Scary
The creatively designed horror set pieces and the addition of a new demonic creature, bound to become the next Universal Studios Hollywood Horror Nights attraction, are a welcomed vignette in the film. The streets of 1950s France become Valak’s playground as she manifests herself through a collage of magazine pages showing the faces of different 1950s women.
It was one of the hardest scenes to pull off, said Chaves in an interview. Well, it was worth it because it is one of the coolest scenes in the movie by far. Via a recent September 11 Collider article (Peralta), Chaves explains the effect was done mostly in camera. Each magazine was mechanically rigged to flip page by page with the wind. It was so difficult to nail down, and the rigs kept breaking (probably from being fragile) that the scene had to be supplemented with visual effects. Nevertheless, these types of visual effects and set pieces stand out as memorable.
The Nun II is a visually stunning horror movie whose plot takes a back seat so that its strongest elements may move to the front. The characters and visual design are the stand-out parts of this film, making this movie a powerful addition to The Conjuring Universe. Overall, it is a stark improvement on the first film. Although the plot sits at the bottom of the list, it rests on the laurels of the director, the cast, and the overall awesome design of its horror elements. The effort put into this film is enough to draw a group of friends out for a scary night at the theaters.
Watch the Nun II in theaters now!
The Nun II (2023) Official Warner Bros. Trailer