[Movie Review] THE NUN II

This piece was posted during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, THE NUN II being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Valak is, at this point, the most exciting part of The Conjuring Universe. Portrayed by Bonnie Aarons, the demonic piercing stare, those pointed teeth ready to rip out a throat, and the sheer gleeful malice emanating from her all come together to create one of the most memorable demons in years. Now, we see the return of Valak again in THE NUN II and, while far from perfect, it is an entertaining hell of a ride.

Taking place four years after the events of its predecessor, THE NUN II features two story points that eventually converge into one. We see Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) living a peaceful life in solitude at a nunnery. Her biggest drama? Trying to get rebellious Sister Debra (Storm Reid) to follow the rules of the order. While the silence is comforting, the past remains. Her experiences in Romania have made their way through the Catholic Church as a legend, but for Sister Irene, the truth is far too real and is far from being resolved.

In France, we see Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet) trying to make a life for himself working in a boarding school in France. Unbeknownst to him (but known to the audience), he is possessed by a vengeful Valak desperately using him to search for something. Cutting a swath across the globe, Frenchie is an unwilling host. With Valak beginning to target individuals within the school, it may not be long before Frenchie loses the small garden of hope he’s managed to foster.

‘Chilling and brutal’

[Movie Review] THE NUN II
Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures
Right out the gate, the tone director Michael Chaves establishes around Valak is chilling and brutal. Audiences are reminded of Valak’s wrath and power within minutes in a visual display that stuns. The cat-and-mouse game of illusion and suspense is a staple of the demon, and Chaves knows how to build in those beats from the script, putting the audience on edge. Barring one visually powerful reveal that is a bit too slow in execution, the scares and suspense here easily will have you popping out of your seat.

What pulls THE NUN II down is Sister Irene and all too convenient storylines. As a character, not for Farmiga’s lack of trying, but Sister Irene struggles to move beyond being one-note. In the originating film, it made sense for her to be this naïve ingenue archetype because she was a novice. Now, after experiencing the original horrors of Valak, there doesn’t seem to be much character growth. And that doesn’t change by film’s end here.

Representing the holy power and goodness of the Catholic faith, Sister Irene’s storyline chasing down clues to figure out where Valak is located lacks a certain urgency despite the obvious urgent nature of her mission. That’s why it’s no wonder that Frenchie’s and new character, Sophie’s (Katelyn Rose Downey), storyline in the school readily captures attention. Dark, foreboding stairwells, a decrypt crumbling church, and the fragile precipice of normalcy Frenchie stands on are enough to maintain tension.

THE NUN II is Bloquet’s show

[Movie Review] THE NUN II
Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures
Bloquet still shines brightly years later in this sequel. He massages the comedic and lighter beats well but is truly terrifying once Valak takes over. Oscillating between goodness and evil, Bloquet utilizes his physicality to convey who he is in the moment. His domineering build against Downey’s provides a visual idea of the power imbalances between the two, a David versus Goliath scenario once things further escalate. Come for Valak but stay for Bloquet and Downey.

Other new additions are Storm Reid and Anna Popplewell. Unfortunately, both are incredibly underutilized and can’t showcase their talents to the fullest. Reid’s Sister Debra has a compelling past, but it reads more as a footnote than something further explored for her character arc. In fact, by arc’s completion, the story doesn’t paint a good enough reason for how her faith has been restored. Anna Popplewell’s Kate is given little to do, frustrating considering she can do more. Outside of being a potential love interest for Frenchie and mom to Sophie, there’s not much for Popplewell to hold onto.

Where things fall apart story-wise is in THE NUN II ’s final act. Storylines converge, turning into an ultimate battle between good versus evil. Despite an incredibly scary sequence involving a creature that has been ceremoniously teased throughout the film, the final showdown was always going to develop the way it was. And, despite all hopes and wishes, what could have been a memorable climax turns into a contrived easy way out to wrap things up in a neat little bow.

Final thoughts

Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

THE NUN II follows the path of good versus evil through a religious lens, a trademark path through The Conjuring franchise. While an uneven film, it contains multiple moments of tension, delightful chases, and scares, but also a core central piece that keeps us coming – hope. Without the hope that Sophie represents to Frenchie, there wouldn’t be much to grab onto to keep us anchored into what matters.

THE NUN II is only in theaters September 8th, 2023, from Warner Bros. Pictures.

Sarah Musnicky
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