“The Nun II,” a sequel to the 2018 film “The Nun,” is a creative continuation of the possessions, exorcisms and demonic action that characterize “The Conjuring” universe, but don’t expect to receive the fright of your life.
Released in theaters Sept. 8, the movie opens in a French cathedral where, after a few minutes of eerie fluff, the Demon Nun — the main antagonist — appears for the first time and claims her first victim, violently murdering a priest. This opening draws the audience in with a combination of intrigue, shock and confusion, and establishes who the audience ought to be looking out for over the course of the film’s runtime.
The film then switches to a new lighthearted convent setting where we see Irene, the protagonist of the film’s predecessor, “The Nun.” After a few scene changes, each with increasingly more suspicious and demonic activity than the last, the main chase begins. We watch Irene, who solved and survived the encounter with this demon in the previous movie, once again be enlisted to banish the Demon Nun.
It is worth mentioning that you are halfway through the film at this point, and the following rising action, climax and falling action all flash by within the last 20 minutes. Though the detailed leadup to the resolution is enjoyable, the event itself feels rushed and unsatisfying. The solution to the possession seems underdeveloped and spontaneous, lacking a prolonged buildup and connection to other parts of the movie.
The lack of a seamless link between various parts of the movie culminates in a feeling of disjointed moving parts, preventing the main message from resonating with the crowd. This is likely due to the absence of any emotional connection between characters and the audience, making it difficult to find oneself attached to them. For example, although I’ll be the first to applaud her acting, Storm Reid’s character Sister Debra seemed to only be in the film to add another notable name on the cast list, as she has almost no background story or connection to the events of the film.
On the subject of acting, Taissa Farmiga’s character, Irene, does play to her strengths as an actress, and her performance is reminiscent of the femininity and gentle manner of her previous role as Violet in “American Horror Story.” Bonnie Aarons similarly gives an exciting performance in her role as the demon nun Valak, as does Jonas Bloquet as Maurice (Frenchie), both of whom reprise their roles from the “The Nun.”
The cinematography is also a redeeming quality of the movie. The choice of shots and sequence is engaging, displaying the slick transitions characteristic of Blumhouse’s production. The lighting, too, coupled with the old European architecture, brings the film to life, creating an almost tangible atmosphere of gothic spookiness. However, “The Nun II” is a surreal horror movie, and the makeup and CGI sometimes miss the mark of scary and land in comedy, garnering more laughs than screams from the audience.
As a result of those lackluster special effects, the film lacks a crucial element of horror films: a scare factor. The film does not inherently lend itself to a traumatic effect, since its set design gives off a surreal feeling and the plot does not leave the audience with the feeling that something lurks behind every corner (unless you live in a monastery or cathedral). But most of the jumpscares are relatively effective, and the scenes that are intended to induce anxiety often succeed in doing so.
In short, “The Nun II” best serves audiences as a fun Halloween experience, rather than a bone-chilling scare. If horror fans place the film in the context of the larger “The Conjuring” universe and connect the demons that haunt each movie, many would still enjoy “The Nun II” despite its minimal fear factor.