It has been around 5 years since ‘The Nun’ has scared its way to a 365-million box office payday and, while reviewing my critique of that movie, and realising how much I disliked the first movie, I’m quite surprised at how much better ‘The Nun II’ is in comparison to its predecessor.
‘The Nun II’ has a more grounded story as it takes its time to build characters that we can invest in so that when the demon nun Valak returns, there are people we can empathize with and genuinely root for. While the film, set in the 50s and just a few years after the events of the first move, it still has a contemporary feel that can affect the reality of the world that is created but at least the film is not as ridiculous as the first.
In this movie Valak has returned and by possessing a body, it has begun a killing spree across Europe. Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) is sent on a mission to find Valak and stop her (as she had done in the first movie) and this time she is joined by an American novitiate Sister Debra (Storm Reid). While the two sisters are giving chase, Valak is now haunting a girl’s boarding school in France where Maurice (Jonas Bloquet), called “Frenchie” in the last movie, is now working. Here, he has taken to a young student Sophie (Katelyn Rose Downey) and her mom, Anna Popplewell. It seems that Valak is looking for something and it might just be in the boarding school.
Again, ‘The Nun II’ offers nothing new to the genre. It is another case of demon possession and the typical battle between good and evil, as represented by the church (Sister Irene) and the devil (represented by the demon Valak). There is no representational aspect to the horrors of this movie, as directed by Michael Chaves and written by Ian Goldberg, Richard Naing, and Akela Cooper.
But at the very least, there’s a bit more story now as the film tries to connect what Valak is after to Sister Irene’s past, which honestly comes off as unrealistically fortuitous. It’s such a mainstream connection, a deus ex machina (pun intended), that works around the singular hero trope and complete with mystical relic. There’s no mystery or wonder to these spiritual artefacts and are instead just used as simply as tools or weapons against the demon. It’s this Western treatment of spiritualism that takes away from the magic and thrill out of the supernatural.
But while the film now has a heart – from the relationships between Maurice, Sophie, and her mother and even from the friendship formed between Sister Irene and Sister Debra – which grounds the plot and gives the horror a place of actual fear; director Michael Chaves has some very interesting directorial set ups that gives actual cinematic fright for the audiences.
Taking advantage of Valak’s appearance, and using the black shade of the nun’s habit, he allows the camera to linger in darkness where Valak may just suddenly appear. He does some pretty fun and cool scary sequences that is sometimes predicated by Marco Beltrami’s aggressive score. There are some genuine scares here as well as a few enjoyable jump scares that makes ‘The Nun II’ quite a ride. While I was having trouble connecting to the film, I was enjoying the thrill of tension and suspense that was created by the filmmaking. While the movie ended and I felt nothing new or surprising when it finished, I felt that it was still a good time in the cinema. A good movie to watch with friends.