Director: Michael Chaves
Cast: Bonnie Aarons, Taissa Farmiga, Storm Reid, Anna Popplewell
Runtime: 1 hr 50 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Official Website: https://www.thenun2.com.sg
Opening Day: 7 September 2023
Synopsis: 1956 -France. A priest is murdered. An evil is spreading. The sequel to the worldwide smash hit follows Sister Irene as she once again comes face-to-face with Valak, the demon nun.
Those who have followed ‘The Conjuring’ universe religiously will know that the films of the same name which centre around Ed and Lorraine Warren as the husband and wife pair of paranormal investigators are ultimately the real deal, with the rest of the spinoffs – such as ‘Annabelle’, ‘The Nun’ and ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ – being largely inferior gap-fillers in between. Notwithstanding that, ‘The Nun’ had in 2018 gone on to become the highest grossing film of the franchise, which made this sequel inevitable.
Set four years after the events of its predecessor, ‘The Nun II’ finds Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) serving at a convent in Italy and Maurice, otherwise known as Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), working at a Catholic boarding school in France. Some may recall that while it had seemed that the demon Valak was banished by the blood of Christ, it had in fact possessed Maurice, as evidenced by an inverted crucifix seared into the back of his neck. As it turns out, Valak still haunts Maurice, and his presence at the school that used to be a former monastery is no coincidence.
You can probably guess that it is only a matter of time before Sister Irene crosses paths with Maurice once again, summoned as she is by the Cardinal to investigate a series of deaths across Europe – including that of the self-immolation of a priest in a church in Tarascon – that had Valak’s fingerprints on them. Joining Irene on her mission is a young, somewhat precocious, novice from the convent named Debra (Storm Reid), whose struggle with faith could do with a jolt from an encounter with pure evil.
To say any more would be to give too much away from a threadbare story – which we’re not sure why is credited to three writers, including James Wan’s frequent collaborator Akela Cooper – that knows its purpose to provide just enough narrative filling in between the horror set-pieces. Indeed, the only mystery here is just what Valak is searching for at the site of the former monastery, which is revealed all too quickly in a scene at the end of the second act where Irene meets up with an elderly librarian at the Palais des Papes.
That said, those looking for plain old good horror will find that director Michael Chaves – a veteran of these films with ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ and ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ – knows just how to make his audience jump. Taking a leaf from the true master Wan, Chaves eschews the jump-out-at-you scares in favour for a solid buildup through suspense and dread, complemented by a strong mise-en-scene courtesy of some choice old-world European locations and Tristan Nyby’s atmospherically evocative cinematography.
A prank within the old chapel inside the boarding school is suitably spine-tingling, followed soon after by an even more sinister encounter that results in the unfortunately gory death of the school’s principal. A foot chase down the creepy alleys of the small town near Aix-en-Provence leads Irene to come face to face with Valak through the fluttering pages of a newsstand. And last but not least, a gleefully demented finale that features no less than a goat demon and a splash of the Catholic sacraments will leave you breathless right up till the mid-credits scene teasing the return of the Warrens. Oh yes, Chaves knows just how to get under your skin, and ‘The Nun II’ is hands down scarier than its predecessor.
So even though it is hardly iconic enough to make genre history, this latest entry into ‘The Conjuring’ canon is nothing less than serviceable, and we might even say well-constructed to deliver the requisite thrills its audience would no doubt be expecting. It is certainly one of the stronger spinoffs to date, and as long as you set your expectations right, will do just fine to keep fans occupied before the inevitable next instalment of the Warrens’ case files.
(One of the better spinoffs of 'The Conjuring' franchise, this solidly constructed sequel packs plenty of spine-tingling moments to keep fans gleefully entertained)
Review by Gabriel Chong