"The Nun II" Film Review

The Nun II (2023) - IMDb

"The Nun II" Film Review

Rating: 3/5

By: Nathaniel Simpson

    It is no secret that "The Nun" was an abysmal horror movie, one that leaves a stain on the Conjuring universe as a whole. So, I was very shocked, as I'm sure tons of people also were, that a sequel was greenlit and ultimately made. Warner Bros marketed the hell out of this movie, with the average person unable to escape the ads of the Nun attacking Taissa Farmiga's Sister Irene. It seems like they were compensating for this film as the first was so awful; surprisingly, this sequel, which is helmed by Michael Chaves, improves on the first film in every single way possible, presenting a decent horror film that can entertain the audiences. 

    This newest installment of the Conjuring franchise, which is the second film in this subseries of films based on the demonic nun Valak (Bonnie Aarons), takes place four years after the events of the first film, with Sister Irene and Father Burke ultimately defeating the cursed Nun. However, what they don't realize is that she possessed their guide Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), possessing his body to do her bidding and wreak havoc on the churches across Europe. 

    Because of this, the Vatican recruits Irene to go find and destroy the Nun once again, with her sister-in-training Debra (Storm Reid) tagging along. At the same time, Frenchie, who has moved and is trying to start a new life for himself as the groundskeeper at a private school, has formed a bond with a little girl named Sophie (Katelyn Rose Downey) and her mother Kate (Anna Popplewell), who is a teacher at the school. What they don't expect though is that the Nun is planning on exacting her huge plan for Europe at this private school, putting everyone in harm's way. 

    I'm going to be completely honest - I was not looking forward to seeing this movie at all. Going into it, I looked to my friend when we sat down and said "let's see how much worse they can screw this franchise up." But, surprisingly, I was caught off guard by all the improvements they made with this entry. Whether it is the story, the acting, the cinematography, etc., this movie does everything so much better than the first film. 2018's "The Nun" was incredibly boring and dragged-out, with the characters just walking and talking for most of the entire runtime; it's incredibly obvious they learned from their mistakes five years ago.

    Perhaps the best thing about this film is the acting performances. Farmiga really steals the show here, and just shows why she is a great horror actress. Unlike this film's predecessor, "The Nun II" really lets her acting chops shine, presenting Sister Irene as one of the best characters in this film. However, Bloquet doesn't let her steal the scene every time, showcasing a performance that is both heartfelt and terrifying. He perfectly plays this version of Frenchie that I like so much better than in the first film, and just shows how Frenchie has grown as a character between the two movies. He is great at being the character that audiences both love and feel bad for, but can easily play the possessed character during the scenes where Valak takes over his body. This film has really made me want to keep an eye on Bloquet and the performances he will give from now on. 

    The story is definitely more interesting here, despite its flaws. It moves at a pretty nice pace for the most part, with some scenes overstaying their welcome here and there. The problems I have here though are the basic story elements and the limited characterization of some of the characters here. Many elements found in this story are very basic, and have had their presence in numerous horror movies before this one. At the same time, it seems like this movie is only interested in its main characters. They have Reid, who is a great up-and-coming actress, play a character who we only have very limited knowledge for. They want to show how she changed from the beginning to the end, but it simply doesn't work well as we don't know much about her. Same can be said for Popplewell, who I only knew her character as "the girl from Narnia". I enjoyed the performance she gave here, but I didn't know anything about her, or even knew her name until I looked it up to write this interview. 

    However, two great standouts here are Aarons as the Nun and the cinematography by  Tristan Nyby. Aarons has always been great as this terrifying titular character, and that is no different here. Thankfully, the film lets her shine a lot more here than they did in the first film, and she really works it as this character. But, a major part of her creepiness is in thanks to Nyby, who delivers some of the best shots in the entire Conjuring franchise. Nyby is a fantastic DOP, and he just lets his talents shine throughout this movie. 

    Then, we have the jump scares. There are a couple that work very well, including the magazine jump scare and Valak appearing before Sophie in one scene. But, for the most part, they are very generic and don't add to the horror at all. This movie had the chance to rely on the creepiness factor to invoke terror onto the audience, but it wants to rely on cheap jump scares that have been seen numerous times in other horror films. 

    While this movie is decent and is enjoyable for the most part, there is no denying that it is a major improvement over the first film. I have heard from others that this movie doesn't improve much on its predecessor, but I think they are just more scorned from the effects from "The Nun" to appreciate how much better this film was. I definitely recommend this movie to those who did like the first film, and encourage others who didn't to at least try this one. You may be pleasantly surprised as I was.