I wanted to start this by expressing my disbelief that we are in a world where there is an entire “Conjuring” universe, but why am I surprised? These movies always break the bank, what with The Nun pulling in a cool $365M against at $22M budget how could I be surprised we are lined up for a second. Honestly…the real reason I shouldn’t be surprised at the success of these films is that they are always well done and simple. Something I have to be mindful not to hold against them, simple does not equal bad.
The Nun II picks up 4 years after the original, with Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) in a kind of Vatican witness protection program, stuffed away in an Italian convent following her battle with the evil nun-demon Valak. Irene is content with her quiet life until she’s pulled back into the fray by the Church like some demure moustache-less Magnum P.I. when a series of mysterious deaths in France matching the MO of the previous film start popping up. She has to go it without the star of the last film, Father Burke (Demian Bichir), as it’s quickly mentioned that though he survived Valak, he didn’t survive a Cholera outbreak, (strange way to jettison such a major character). Joining her this time around is rookie nun Sister Debra (Storm Reid of Euphoria fame). The fight with Valak begins almost immediately on arriving in France, and reaches to the conveniently placed Maurice, another returning face to the franchise, who is possessed by the evil habited one.
If you think that plot sounds a bit simple, well…it is. I’m still wrestling whether that’s a bad thing or not. Judging the film on it’s own merits provides a positive response. Taissa Farmiga is uniquely suited for the role, possessing such an innocent and unassuming visage but able to emote such inner power as to make the fight believable. Michael Chavis (The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It) directs the hell out of the film and continues to show the talent for creating a terrifying visual that keeps him gainfully employed within this cinematic universe (this is movie #3 for him if my count is correct). Of course, Chavis is helped by the time period and location….there aren’t many times and places creepier than parts of post-war Europe, but even with the natural assist he makes full use of everything available to him.
Let’s be honest, even without the accolades I just covered this film would be creepy. There is something so inherently terrifying about a Nun’s outfit, add in a grotesque demon? Hands down terrifying. Valak herself continues to steal the spotlight in jump scare after jump scare. I couldn’t help thinking of a Hell-based The Dating Game where Valak was paired up with Art the Clown from the Terrifier movies, they look to similar to not be compared, but I realized I was doing this to distract myself from anticipating the next scare, the film can be an anxiety attack waiting to happen.
Unfortunately the atmosphere and jump scares are where the fun starts and ends. I watched the credits roll and couldn’t help but wondering what could have been had they built more into the lore of this particular story as opposed to assembly line scares. I’m sure they are saving that story for the inevitable prequel film but to not dig into the world makes for a forgettable film at the end of the day. The shot of adrenaline makes for a fun time at the theater but one that people won’t hold onto for long. It’s the reason people still talk about Freddy and Jason but modern movie monsters seem so disposable. The Nun II is a perfect disposable but fun Friday night date film, a good way to blow 90 minutes for a horror fan, but lacks the lasting impact it feels like it could have if done with more passion for the story.