The Nun II
2023, R, 110 min. Directed by Michael Chaves. Starring Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet, Storm Reid, Anna Popplewell, Bonnie Aarons.
REVIEWED By Jenny Nulf, Fri., Sept. 15, 2023
Where Warner Bros. failed with their DC universe, they have certainly found success within James Wan’s The Conjuring universe. The souped-up sequel to The Nun – the franchise’s biggest film to date – feels like something more kin with a blockbuster than a horror movie. Directed by franchise favorite Michael Chaves (who at this point has surpassed Wan with the number of Conjuring films he’s been behind camera on), The Nun II is a non-stop hot mess of try-hard jump scares that relish too long in their setup and never stick the landing.
The events of The Nun II take place four years after the first: The Demon Nun, aka Valak (Bonnie Aarons), has been hopping from country to country in Europe murdering holy figures. In the semi-gnarly cold opening, a child witnesses a priest being thrown into the air and burned alive before his eyes. It’s Chaves’ best opening yet, showing his audience that he has stepped up his game a little in this installment. His ultraviolent approach does not go unnoticed, cracking open heads with thuribles and stabbing kids with the horns of the Devil. However, the shock of CGI blood wears down fast, oversaturated with scare sequences that feel more filler and fluff than eerie or terrifying.
It doesn’t take too long for the first film’s savior, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), to piece together that Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet) has been possessed by Valak and is hunting for the eyes of Saint Lucy to essentially become a supervillain. Tagging along with Sister Irene this time is Sister Debra (Reid), who was forced to become a nun by her father after racists burned down her family home in the United States. Sister Debra is looking for a miracle, something that makes her believe that God is real, and what better than a nasty Demon Nun to do that? If there’s one thing Catholic-laced horror always reminds us is that Heaven exists because the Devil is running rampant on Earth, terrorizing innocents. Playing a character whose only purpose is to run around and save Sister Irene when she’s in danger, Reid is unfortunately wasted in The Nun II.
How is there any time to give characterization to a new supporting character when the film is more concerned with atmosphere in its overlong jump scares than it is actual story? The Nun II feels like a vehicle for Chaves to prove he can adapt WB’s next Stephen King film. There are some sequences that feel beat for beat like something from Andrés Muschietti’s It, like when the Demon Nun reveals its form to Sister Irene in the flickering pages of a magazine on a street stand. Everything from The Nun II feels like a copy of something much cooler from another film, which is consistently Chaves’ Achilles’ heel. He’s a sleek copycat, a malleable hired hand to get the job done, which means his movies never linger in the zeitgeist. The Nun II might be a slight step up from the slog that was The Nun, but that’s a low bar to creep up from.