The Nun II Is Scary Despite Flat Moments

The Nun II still of Irene (Taissa Farmiga) and Debra (Storm Reid).

The Nun II is one of those movies where the experience improves based on friends’ or audience engagement. It aims to endear characters to the audience and foster investment in them. There are multiple plot points the film seeks to tie together. While most wrap up in a neat bow by the credits, dialogue hinders some performances. Fans of laughing at silliness who can suspend hope for any loosely based truth can enjoy The Nun II for what it is: ridiculous fun with a plethora of jump scares and swear-worthy moments. 

Directed by Michael Chavez and written by Ian Goldberg, Richard Naing, and Akela Cooper, this story continues after the events of the first film, which ended with Maurice (Jonas Bloquet) under the demon nun, Valak (Bonnie Aarons) control, unbeknownst to himself or Irene (Taissa Farmiga). Here, rather than a central location for the story, the movie moves between two locations before heading toward the climax. It shows where Maurice has settled as a janitor at an all-girls boarding school in France and Irene’s new home with a pack of nuns, including Debra (Storm Reid), whom she’s taken under her wing as Debra struggles to adjust to the religious life forced on her by her father. 

The Nun II Builds Relationships Amid Frights

The Nun II still of Maurice (Jonas Bloquet) and Valak (Bonnie Aarons) behind him.
The Nun II still. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Maurice is friends with a little girl, Sophie (Katelyn Rose Downey) while crushing on her mother, Kate (Anna Popplewell). The friendship is heartwarming. But of course, there’s bullying, and a trio of girls go out of their way to torment Sophie. Even more disrespectful, they tell Maurice that a lowly janitor cannot order them around. The Nun II focuses on showing the dynamics at this school for Maurice and Sophie instead of telling. 

Irene and Debra’s story feels less authentic, but that’s also because of the dialogue and less show. Some of the hints for future conflicts here feel blatant, but it is better that the film circles back around than leaves that neon sign hanging. It is hilarious watching nuns share a scary story about a nun who fought evil, a.k.a. Irene. But the dynamics here lack the impact that Maurice and Sophie’s story possesses. 

Performances work, though the most underutilized, is Anna Popplewell, whose character seems negligent regarding her daughter. Jonas Bloquet’s acting makes you care for his survival, while Katelyn Rose Downey garners sympathy and anger on her behalf because of the school bullies. Taissa Farmiga’s character feels flatter this go-around, but that’s because her dialogue borders on sermonizing. Her angelic character leaves no leeway for range and winds up dull.

Heroic Quest and Terror

The Nun II still of Irene (Taissa Farmiga) holding a rosary in front of her.
The Nun II still. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Once again tasked to stop the nun she thought she defeated, Irene’s soon back in the thick of it. Traveling to locations where phenomena occurred, there are mysterious National Treasure moments here as Irene tries to discern what Valak is after. Moments using shadows stand out as terrifying, while others wind up lacking. Shocking death sequences emphasize the threat, so expect to yell at the screen. While the nun chills the blood in the shadows, the CGI pulls viewers out of the stakes when she’s in the light. 

Overall, The Nun II entertains, creating laughs and scares. It has horrifying moments, deaths, and stakes. But it also takes on too much with character threads that don’t always pull at the audience’s heartstrings. It feels more like a drama than a horror movie when Valak is not present, and while imperfect, it’s a fun, scary group watch. Fans of The Conjuring universe should add it to their collection. Still, horror films must return to practical effects to deliver terror instead of the glossiness of special effects that feel too Hollywood for real-life frights. That would have made The Nun II far more menacing, rather than merely mid.  

*This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.

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