Corin Hardy, who previously directed the first ‘Nun’ in 2018, didn’t return for the sequel. His replacement? Michael Chaves. The same director who helmed the mediocre ‘Conjuring’ universe films ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ in 2019 and ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ in 2021. The latter was mainly a huge disappointment and a far cry from James Wan’s superior first two movies. Given his track record, having him in charge of ‘The Nun II’ doesn’t inspire confidence.
So, I went in with low expectations, and who knows, maybe Chaves might surprise me with a better-than-expected ‘Nun’ sequel. Besides, the director himself has claimed, “It is definitely more violent than what they expected from a ‘Conjuring’ movie” during an interview with SFX Magazine. I also noticed Warner Bros. has been aggressively marketing its sequel, one of which involved ‘The Conjuring Chronicle’ newsstand campaign in Venice Beach, California.
And yet, I hate to say this, but ‘The Nun II’ is another fiasco for Chaves. The sequel takes place four years after the events of the first movie in Romania, and the setting now is Tarascon, France. Chaves opens his movie with a pre-credits prologue that sees a boy (Maxime Elias-Menet) and a priest facing something sinister happening in the church. The scene itself has everything you come to expect from a ‘Conjuring’ universe film – evil lurking somewhere in the darkness, a foreboding sense of dread, a mysterious sound, and a spooky atmosphere.
And, of course, the jump scares that have been the bread and butter of ‘The Conjuring’ universe. But all the combined elements here could only muster a few of been-there, done-that kind of scare.
Following the gruesome death of the priest, the church specifically wanted the otherwise reluctant Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) to investigate the murder. She is joined by Sister Debra (Storm Reid) to assist her in the investigation, which takes them to a boarding school in France.
It was the same school that Maurice (Jonas Bloquet), the French-Canadian farmer who saved Irene’s life in the first movie, happens to work as a handyman and a gardener managing his tomato plant. He still has a scar resembling an upside-down cross on the back of his neck, previously seen at the end of the first movie.
Chaves, working from a screenplay by Ian Goldberg alongside Richard Naing and Akela Cooper (the latter is best known for writing ‘Malignant’ and ‘M3GAN’), splits the movie into two halves. One half sees Irene and Debra doing their investigative work, while the other half focuses on the boarding school. Maurice tends to behave strangely every now and then, and there’s a subplot where he grows attached to the teacher, Kate (Anna Popplewell), and her daughter, Sophie (Katelyn Rose Downey).
Valak (Bonnie Aarons), the demonic nun who supposedly burned away from the result of the spitting blood of Christ in the first movie, returns to haunt again. She apparently takes control of Maurice, and, this time, she is looking for a MacGuffin related to the past.
‘The Nun II’ is nothing more than a substandard gothic horror lacking in genuine scares. However, one creative scene occurs at the newsstand, where Irene witnesses the magazines flipping the pages by themselves. The otherwise fan-favorite appearance of Valak is a hit-and-miss affair, and it seems to me that Chaves doesn’t know how to make good use of her. Even when Valak goes full force in the chaotic third act, it’s too late and too little.
The absence of Joseph Bishara, who scored the first movie, is sorely felt in this sequel. Replacing him with Marco Beltrami, who is no stranger to scoring horror films like ‘Scream,’ ‘Mimic’ and ‘A Quiet Place,’ turns out to be a letdown. Beltrami’s score somehow sounds generic and barely raises a sense of ominous dread and tension, even when his music soars in certain scenes.
Despite enlisting Akela Cooper as part of the screenwriting team, the story brings nothing new or substantial to the table. It all feels predictable and hastily written from start to end. There is an attempt to expand the lore surrounding Valak, complete with a potentially interesting brief backstory, but the result is rather perfunctory.
The movie also does little to form a solid, let alone effective, character arc, notably from Irene’s point of view. Like the first movie, her character remains undermined. Storm Reid, the newcomer in ‘The Conjuring’ franchise, appears as Sister Debra in a thankless supporting turn. I previously enjoyed Reid’s performance in ‘Missing’ earlier this year, but it was a polar opposite when she annoys me a lot with her role, who spends most of the time screaming later in the movie.
For all the huge marketing push and the so-called most “violent” chapter in ‘The Conjuring’ universe (seriously, the R-rating here for its violent content and some terror are relatively tame), ‘The Nun II’ is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen in the franchise.