The Nun II
Dir. Michael Chaves (2023)
Valek has returned to wreak havoc on Catholicism, and Sister Irene finds herself once again in a fight to save herself and the world.
I don't know that I've ever been more disappointed in a film than I was in The Nun. Such a terrifying villain in a fantastic series, delivered in such a lackluster and bonkers stupid way. They literally could have put any other plot behind it, any other setting or time period, and it would have made more sense and been a more watchable film. Needless to say, I was less than thrilled when I heard they were making a sequel. Thankfully, a lot of what the original film missed is rectified in this one, with only two repeated characters (who weren't the problem in the original film), a new director, and a much more exciting and eerie story.
Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) has relocated to another convent, but when nuns and priests begin dying in mysterious and brutal ways across Europe, she is called by the Vatican to investigate and attempt to stop the rise of the demon Valek. With her is new nun Debra (Storm Reid), who is questioning her faith but wants to help the cause nonetheless. When Irene finds that "Frenchie" Maurice (Jonas Bloquet), who is now the caretaker for a new girl's home, has carried the demon to the home with him, she must search for another ancient relic to help defeat the evil once and for all.
The Nun II feels like it's a little cheaper than the first one, and there is a relative lack of Valek in comparison to the previous film. It's made up for with a creepier ambience, a more coherent story, and some truly impressive shots that help ease the burden of needing a supernatural monster in every scene. There are also some impressive effects, like the scene in which a wall of magazines begins flipping pages to make the books appear in the form of Valek. The background scares come aplenty, and when my dog sneezed in the opening sequence, I almost had a heart attack.
There are, unfortunately, also some terrible effects. The goat in the film, which I won't discuss to avoid spoilers, was a lot of fun, but it is also entirely CGI. Most of the film's finale was the same, a giant computer generated set piece that, while impressive and fairly realistic, feels like a slap in the face to fans of practical effects. Including Farmiga in the sequel was smart, but it's still a movie set long ago in a continent far, far away, and it does nothing to explain how Valek ended up in the Conjuring setting a half-century later. Perhaps that's something that The Nun III will cover when it inevitably happens, but there's nothing so far to indicate that that will be the case.
Despite its shortcomings, The Nun II is a good bit better than the first film. The performances are stronger, and there's much less reliance on impressive old buildings or decrepit nunneries for the scares. Valek is a terrifying villain, and the film's sparing use of her was perhaps a wise choice to amp up the fear factor when she's actually on-screen. It's rare that a series begins to find it's footing in the second film, but I'm certainly hoping that this one has. I'm gonna watch the next one regardless.
Who this movie is for: The Conjuring series fans, Modern horror aficionados, Altar boys
Bottom line: While The Nun II doesn't fully absolve the first movie of its sins, it does a decent job in its attempt. It's relatively scary, and it feels like a building block that the series can use to make some more films. Valek is terrifying as always, and Farmiga and Reid do a great job carrying most of the load for the human characters. If you hated the first Nun, give this one a shot. It's a decent flick, and maybe it'll be an indication that the series isn't as dead as it appeared.