The Nun II (2023)

I am one of the few people that liked The Nun, though I approached it for what it was: a cynical cash grab and a way to keep the Conjuring universe relevant until the next main movie in the series came out.  Annabelle had pretty much been played out so Valak, a demon who takes the form of a monstrous nun, was introduced in The Conjuring 2 as the next big threat and a nemesis to Lorraine Warren. 

Since Valak's first appearance the demon's personal attacks on Lorraine have not been explored much, with Ed falling victim to a demonic curse in the third film, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do ItWhether the set-up of The Conjuring 2 will have a payoff rather than being a paycheck remains to be seen, but The Nun, despite horrible reviews, managed to still make enough to warrant a sequel. 

In 1956 Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) is now in a convent school where her involvement in the incidents in Romania are not known by most of the staff.  However, she is called once again to investigate what appears to be a resurfacing of Valak, who appears to have been moving westward from Romania as evidenced by priests and other clergy that appear to have been killed by a demonic presence.  Her commission is overheard by a rebellious sister named Debra (Storm Reid) who accompanies her in her investigation.

It appears that the demon, seen possessing Maurice (Jonas Bloquet) at the end of the first film, has been using him as a vessel to search for a holy relic that will give it great power.  Maurice is currently the groundskeeper and maintenance man at a parochial school in France, where he has attracted the attention of the children's teacher Kate (Anna Popplewell) and made friends with her daughter Sophie (Katelyn Rose Downey).  Sophie and others start seeing the Nun (Bonnie Aarons) on the school grounds, and soon Sisters Irene and Debra arrive to once again attempt to send the demon back to hell as well as save Maurice's life. 

The Nun was a conventional and rather dreary horror film.  Despite its religious elements is was a basic plot of there being a monster and the hero with special powers, in Sister Irene's case some latent psychic abilities, finding the special object that will kill the monster.  Beyond the veneer it wasn't anything audiences hadn't seen many times before.  It relied heavily on jump scares as the atmosphere that director Corin Hardy presented was pretty one-note.  

The Nun II is also about getting the McGuffin, but Michael Chaves tries to add more of a mystery element to it.  He's not as successful as he was with the third Conjuring film, but it works.  Still, the atmosphere is needlessly dreary at times, particularly as he had real locations he could film at in France.  He is more visually creative than Hardy, particularly in a scene where Irene has a vision of the Nun among a bunch of magazines in a street kiosk.  

What that particular scene proves is that there was a missed opportunity.  The Nun II feels less like another Conjuring film and more like a '70s Italian horror film, particular in how it is paced.  Sister Irene, except toward the very end, pretty much does nothing except brood, while there is a whole second antagonist that shows up in the third act out that is hinted at early on but is never set up to be real.  Add in some primary colors rather than the browns and greys and add a retro-synth soundtrack and critics would have been falling all over themselves praising Chaves for making the type of movie Dario Argento's fans have been hoping he would get back to making since Trauma.  Sure, it would have been pure Tarantino-style homage, but it would have been fun, something this movie could have been injected with by certain directorial choices without purposely camping up the script.

There are some typical jump scares, but not as many as The Nun and it is something that Chaves seems to use at a minimum.  I'm surprised that I like two movies in a row he has done so far since I pretty much hated The Curse of La Llorona, which was an attempt to include the famous Mexican ghost story as part of the extended Conjuring universe.  I also know I'm still in the minority of liking these later films, but I am finding them enjoyable and think others would to if the producers and writers would just stop taking them so seriously.

The Nun II (2023)
Time: 110 minutes
Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Storm Reid, Anna Popplewell, Katelyn Rose Downey, Jonas Bloquet, Bonnie Aarons
Director: Michael Chaves



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