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The Nun II (15)

Director: Michael Chaves
Screenplay: Ian Goldberg, Richard Naing, Akela Cooper

Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet, Storm Reid

Review: RJ Bland

Why do some films get sequels whilst others remain standalone entries? Does critical success play a part? A movie that manages to achieve good grades certainly gives producers some level or reassurance that a filmmaker and their team are a safe bet for future projects but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a follow up is forthcoming. But sometimes a plot just doesn’t naturally feel as if it has scope to become a franchise or series. It’s unlikely that we will see sequels to modern classics such as Get Out (2017), The Witch (2015) and It Follows (2014) any time soon because their respective stories have been told. Plus, there’s also the risk of damaging a film’s legacy if a sequel is churned out too hastily (see The Exorcist II and Blair Witch: Book of Shadows). The crux of this waffle is that if a film does well at the box office and there is a way to keep the story going, producers can and will exploit it regardless of how well it is received. Did we really think we needed sequels to films like Ouija (2014) and Annabelle (2014)? Nope. They were both underwhelming but between them they made a profit of over $250m worldwide. Follow ups were greenlit and you know what? They were both pretty damn good. The Nun (2018) is another one that flopped with critics and fans yet made a tidy sum at the box office. After her scene-stealing debut in The Conjuring 2, fans were eager to see more of Valak the demonic nun but were left largely disappointed with Corin Hardy’s tame period piece. But she’s here again, five years later, with another chance to scare us shitless with the release of The Nun II.


Four years after the events at Saint Cartha’s monastery and the fates of our three heroes are mixed to say the least. Father Burke (Demian Bichir) has passed away (probably wanted too much cash to reprise his role) and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) is living incognito at another monastery in rural Italy. She’s made a connection with another young nun, Sister Debra (Storm Reid) but even she isn’t aware of her friend’s demon-fighting past. Meanwhile, Maurice (Jonas Bloquet), the handsome handyman, is working at a boarding school in France, where he has formed a bond with a sensitive young Irish pupil called Sophie (Katelyn Rose Downey) and her attractive mum, of course. However, the relative stability of their new lives is unfortunately short-lived. A series of mysteriously macabre deaths of priests and nuns across Europe indicate that Valak has resurfaced and despite her reluctance, Sister Irene is tasked with heading to France to investigate the latest case, with Sister Debra in tow. And at the boarding school, Maurice is beginning to suspect that something is a little off. Especially in that abandoned chapel on the school grounds that’s been sealed up for a decade…


The Nun II is undoubtedly a better film that its predecessor, although admittedly that is not a particularly big compliment. It’s the bare minimum that anyone going into this film could ask for really. The first film had all the ingredients to be a superior Conjureverse flick but it dropped the ball hard and fast. Whilst The Nun II is still only a low to middle entry in this ever-expanding horror collection, it does at least manage to deliver a few chills and up the body count at the same time. This is director Michael Chaves’ third time helming one of these films (He also directed The Conjuring 3 and The Curse of La Llorona) and he brings with him the usual James Wan-esque combo of jump-scares and murky open-spaced dread. For hardened horror fans, it may feel a little mild. There is nothing particularly new or inventive on show here – apart from an excellent scene involving a giant rack of magazines! But those who enjoy the light thrills of studio ghost train movies, there’s enough here to satisfy.


Technically, it’s superior to the original as well. The sprawling plot allows Chaves to explore a number of locations, but we spend a lot of time in dark, misty European streets and cavernous buildings and its gothic sensibilities are to be applauded. A better script helps too (bringing Akela Cooper on board probably helped) and gives us a chance to connect a little more with our leads. Farmiga’s character is fleshed out more sufficiently and Maurice is a bit more solemn and grounded too. Goofy attempts at comedy are replaced with a welcome dose of earnestness.


Unfortunately, The Nun II hasn’t managed to rid itself of all the flaws that shackled the first, as well as several other Conjureverse titles. For starters, we just see too much of the antagonist. She pops up every five minutes and although she’s undoubtedly something of a horror icon now, it becomes a tad fatigued. In the third act, new visual realisations of Valak kick in too and it all becomes rather heavy handed. The rules that the films have created regarding her powers and motivation are also muddled too. One minute she’s able to break people’s necks from afar and others, she’s chasing people with knives. Is she just trying to burn off some calories or make the kills more interesting? Who knows. The climax is also as nonsensical and bombastic as the first. I guess they hope that amongst all the screaming and destruction that we’ll be distracted from wanting something a bit more refined and weightier. But then again, if you’re after that, you probably wouldn’t be going to see The Nun II.

Whilst The Nun II is still nothing more than a run-of-the-mill  generic studio horror, it is nevertheless a marked improvement on the original. Fine if you are after something broad and undemanding.
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