After directing The Curse of La Llorona and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, director Michael Chaves returns to The Conjuring Universe once more with new sequel, The Nun II. Resurrecting Valek (Bonnie Aarons), the demonic nun from the first film, Chaves’ sequel follows Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) as she investigates a series of brutal murders in the Church across Europe.
This globe-trotting plot sees the sequel unfold in numerous different locations across the continent, appropriately broadening the scale from the original film. And with returning characters Sister Irene and Maurice (Jonas Bloquet) – who’s now working in a French boarding school – still at the forefront of the action, the stakes feel higher than ever.
This welcome sense of gravitas is (mostly) matched by the high quality of horror on offer too, as The Nun II boasts some especially creative and creepy scenes. The magazine stand sequence, which featured heavily in the film’s trailer, is the standout, but the film has a further, extensive collection of sinister scares up its habit’s sleeve. Admittedly, some of them do lead to more predictable jump scares, but when most are executed so effectively and inventively, it’s easy to forgive the more lazy, clichéd examples that also co-exist here.
Refreshingly, The Nun II is a horror that doesn’t solely rely on its scares, though. Akela Cooper’s story offers a compelling narrative to accompany and compliment its horror. The central murder investigation, which is steeped in religious history, gives the film a more mysterious and intriguing angle. This elevates it slightly above the more generic possession films that the genre has become oversaturated with. Instead, these additions keep The Nun II engaging, at times even feeling reminiscent of an Indiana Jones adventure.
This franchise’s good-natured relic hunter is of course Taissa Farmiga instead though, who is on fine form once more as Sister Irene. She leads the story with an unassuming assuredness that makes her easy to root for. And in delivering another confident performance, The Nun films now feel just as much hers as they do Bonnie Aarons’, who here, as the titular demon, is again unsurprisingly unnerving. Aarons has a truly menacing presence as the Nun that has the power to scare audiences all by itself, but when combined with the film’s impressive technical elements designed specifically to evoke terror, she becomes an even more formidable force for fostering fear.
Elsewhere, the supporting cast, including Jonas Bloquet, Anna Popplewell, Katelyn Rose Downey and Storm Reid, perform well too. With many of their characters fighting demons of their own (in some instances literally) they aptly add to the film’s themes of faith and miracles. Given room to breathe courtesy of the film’s healthy runtime and good pacing, these character journeys eventually culminate in a thrilling third act which doesn’t skimp on scares or action.
Chaves has a great sense of space throughout his film, but here he puts it to best use, turning his setting from a house of God into a nightmarish house of horrors, where anything is possible. Combining the most interesting aspects of the plot with some truly hellish imagery, The Nun II has a finale that’s equal parts frightening and fun – a statement that’s true of the film as a whole too. And while many won’t rejoice in its genre trappings, for those willing to exercise a little faith, there’s plenty of horror to enjoy at the altar of The Nun II.
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The Nun II certainly has a few cinematic sins to confess, but its creative scares and engaging story make it a fun and frightening blockbuster horror.
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