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The Nun II: Film Review

The Nun II is the latest film in The Conjuring universe and while it is a serviceable horror flick, it lacks the heart the Warrens tend to bring to the series. 

Having launched movie franchises such as Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring, James Wan is one of the brightest minds in modern horror. His work is wildly imaginative and twisted, but he also finds the heart in his films through his characters. The Conjuring became the most successful of the bunch because its two leads resonated with moviegoers on a deeper level. With such success, The Conjuring spawned two more sequels and several spin-offs: Anabelle and The Nun. The latter proved the business the series could earn at the box office by making the most money from The Conjuring saga. Of course, as the highest-grossing film in the franchise, The Nun II was a no-brainer. 

In 1956, a powerful evil spread across a town in France as a priest’s violent murder became public. Having experienced such evil, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga, The Gilded Age) is sent to investigate the murder, only to find a demon behind it – the same evil that terrorized her in the original movie disguised as a nun – Valak (Bonnie Aarons, Mrs. Davis).

I cannot begin this review without mentioning my experience with the titular character. I adore The Conjuring films, mainly the two directed by Wan. They have a lot of style with their creative camera work, engaging storylines, and characters. Anabelle as a standalone series is solid, though not necessarily memorable. Yet, Valak captured the audience’s attention the most. I never understood why.

The demon’s design certainly left an impression, but her introduction in The Conjuring 2 always felt shoehorned rather than integral. As a prequel, The Nun had the potential to explore the villain’s origins, although it only managed to make it more boring for me. Going into The Nun II, my interest in seeing Valak on the big screen again was slim. Other creatures in the franchise seemed to have more promise if tackled in a spin-off than Valak, but that is just my opinion. Nonetheless, I admire it when a filmmaker proves me wrong, which is what Michael Chaves does with The Nun II. Partially, at least. 

loud and clear reviews The Nun II (Warner Bros. Pictures) 2023 movie film
The Nun II (Warner Bros. Pictures)

The Nun II suffers from the same issues its predecessors endured, although not without some positive aspects. If James Wan knew how to frame Valak in a manner that made the character have an impact on people, Michael Chaves would find ways to create effective set pieces around the demon. Valak carries too cool of a design to be taken as seriously as the films portray her. There should be an evil playfulness to sell the danger it poses, and Chaves understands this. 

If you have been following The Nun II ’s promotional campaign, then you have seen hints of some well-made sequences. The scene with the newspaper stands in the empty alley is a standout, but another highlight takes place in a stairwell as Valak haunts Sophie (Katelyn Rose Downey, The Princess), a boarding school student. There are some neat lighting tricks and perspective effects here that are not only scary but have so much personality and made me feel the menacing entity Valak is. Another set piece is about a different creature Valak summons in the third act that is pulled off practically, making it even more memorable. 

While Chaves knows how to use Valak to create scares, The Nun II loses itself to its plot. In this regard, the sequel suffers from the same problems The Nun did. It is not abnormal for these movies to be overly complicated for their own good. But where The Conjuring has Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson to keep us invested in their demonic investigations, The Nun II never takes the time to develop its leads.

Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet (1899), and Bonnie Aarons are the only returning cast members from the first film. Farmiga has been a solid addition to the franchise since The Nun, but neither script for either movie has given her a chance to show more range other than running around, yelling out prayers, and spilling exposition. Bloquet has more to do here as the possessed subject in the film, though it feels like more of the same tropes in the supernatural subgenre. There is no denying Aarons is the star of The Nun II, as she is allowed to run free and be more playful than any of the other films allowed her to be. 

As for newcomers to the series, Anna Popplewell (The Gallery) and Storm Reid (The Last of Us) are the two biggest names with significant roles. I hesitate to say significant roles because they are not given much to do. Popplewell has been a treat to see on screen since her days in The Chronicles of Narnia, and although her part in The Nun II is not groundbreaking, her chemistry with both Bloquet and Downey is sweet. The bigger issue here is casting Reid as a co-lead and wasting her talents. 

From Euphoria to The Last of Us, and most recently Missing, Reid has demonstrated a wide range of emotions, characters, and genres. So, diving back into horror must have been exciting for her, after her work in The Invisible Man. Truth be told, Debra could have been cut entirely and little would change in The Nun II. It feels like a waste of potential, and at times you forget she is even in the movie because the film forgets too.

loud and clear reviews The Nun II (Warner Bros. Pictures) 2023 movie film
The Nun II (Warner Bros. Pictures)

What is worse about The Nun II is that it replays Valak’s greatest hits. If you can even call them great. The first installment has our group of characters investigate a series of violent murders, they encounter the demonic nun and proceed to look for a holy relic that can destroy Valak for good. That exact description can be applied to its sequel. Sure, Chaves’ direction shines and the cast elevates the script where they can, but The Nun II’s biggest sin is its lack of interest to do anything interesting with its story. There is nothing wrong with tropes and cliches, if you make them your own, rather than copy and paste them into your narrative. 

With The Nun II being Chaves’ third film in The Conjuring universe – The Curse of La Llorona and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It being his previous two – you can see a growth in style and approach to the genre. La Llorona was not my cup of tea, as it felt like a mix of the worst things the genre has to offer. The Devil Made Me Do It, my favorite of his three films thus far, slows things down and attempts character work with the Warrens. The Nun II falls somewhere in between.  

The Nun II is fun on paper. It has all the right elements, it is competently crafted, and there seems to be a sense of enjoyment in bringing the titular character to life. The Conjuring 2, even if I was not a fan of the character itself, did a decent job of introducing Valak to the masses. The Nun felt like a step backward, and The Nun II – though not without its flaws – at least looks like it is finding interesting ways to portray the character. If Chaves is given the chance to direct the third installment of this trilogy, I have hopes he will look back at his work in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It and apply a similar approach to his characters next time around. Because while The Nun II is a serviceable horror flick with cool sequences, it could use more quiet moments that allow us to invest ourselves in what is unfolding on screen.

The Nun II was released globally in theaters on September 8, 2023. Read our review of Immaculate.

Immaculate Review: Praise be to Sydney Sweeney – Loud And Clear
Immaculate has the suspense and gore, but an unforgettable lead performance by Sydney Sweeney truly makes it a riveting horror film.
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