Let’s scare the crap out of people – that’s the basic premise of horror films but there’s an obvious downside to this when done too often – crap is what gets left behind.
Horror aficionados can instantly recognise icons of the genre, from possessed creepy dolls behind glass cases to deadites who are almost impossible to kill, to the Michael Jackson-looking demon that influences young children to kill their families, but no demon is as unsettling as Valak.
After making her first appearance in James Wan’s The Conjuring 2 (2016), the Demonic Nun aka Valak, has become one of the most recognisable demons in film from the newly minted The Conjuring Universe. From her tall stature, beady yellow eyes, pale face, and sharp teeth, Valak’s blasphemous form of a nun creeps many to the core because what else is there to protect you if said demon looks like something one would associate with God and Faith?
Valak received its solo film in 2018’s The Nun and expanded The Conjuring Universe to include characters including Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) and Jonas Bloquet (Frenchie/Maurice). The Nun 2 continues the unholy work of The Nun and connects to the ever-expanding franchise.
Maurice, in case you haven’t picked it up yet, was briefly spoken about in a lecture on exorcisms in The Conjuring (2013) before fans actually met him in The Nun, and learned what exactly possessed him. The lecture also briefly mentioned a wife, who we didn’t meet in The Nun, but could potentially be Kate (Anna Popplewell), the boarding school teacher introduced in The Nun 2 – we’re just connecting the dots here.
And connect we do because the film is a mess. The sequel picks up after the events of The Nun and answers the question audiences would’ve left with when the credits rolled – “What happened to Maurice?”. As it turns out, Maurice now works as a servant in a French boarding school where young girls bully each other night and day, where an abandoned chapel remains locked after a war bombing, and where romance flourishes in between English classes. Sister Irene finally makes a real Nun-friend in Sister Debra (Storm Reid) and despite parting ways with Maurice in Romania, the sinister Valak brings them back together.
Now, viewers don’t necessarily have to have seen The Nun to understand the events of the sequel. In fact, The Nun 2 gives you a recap through stories Nuns tell themselves or in lazy flashbacks to the first movie. To catch all the references and connections though, viewers will have to watch the Conjuring movies. For hardcore fans, please take note – the connections run beyond what we see on screen as a previously canned idea from The Conjuring 2 that director Wan shared in old interviews, makes an appearance in this horror sequel.
Aside from the connections, The Nun 2 offers some great scares. Valak’s appearances alone are enough to put anyone in a state of unease, and the use of unsuspecting jumpscares creates some heart-pounding moments. There are frequent uses of camera panning in empty and dark rooms, creating bouts of anxiety as one awaits for something to pop up or not. After all, not knowing is part of the thrill. Plus, Valak isn’t the only evil entity our leads are going up against so viewers are kept on their toes for who, or rather, what will pop out in the shadows.
Sadly, The Nun 2 doesn’t have anything new to add outside of the scares and in-universe references and connections. The Nun 2 shares the same issues as the first movie – a convoluted plot that drags out and only picks up at the last half hour. Prior to reaching the climax, we are treated to numerous visions from Sister Irene that are repetitive and all in all, confusing. The visions obviously lead up to a big reveal, but it is such a nonsensical revelation that the movie just ceases to make sense and becomes unbelievable.
So what are we left with? The crap scared out of us and nothing more.
Even though a Demon Nun doesn’t exist in real life, The Nun seems like it could have happened. Don’t lie – how many of you have actually Googled “Is The Nun based on a true story?” at some point only to be relieved that it’s all make-believe? This doesn’t apply to its sequel. The Nun 2 became so ridiculous that it loses the possibility of ever being real, and in some sense, diminishes a bit of the horror experience. We know – this is a supernatural film after all, but we asked to be scared, and not to be treated like children who will fall for nonsense.
There are plenty of references to passages and iconography in the Catholic faith, but it is hardly a true representation of how real exorcisms work. Again, we’re not looking for realism, but it would have amped the scare factor if it was a little bit truer to life.
If Valak was an entity you feared in the earlier films, The Nun 2 somewhat reduces its magnanimity. For starters, the demon looks incredibly polished. Earlier depictions of Valak in previous films showed cracked skin, a crooked mouth and darkened irregular eye sockets. You wouldn’t and couldn’t have been able to make out how the demon looked like underneath the scarf and habit. Even if you wanted to, it’s dark appearance and eerie presence are enough for one to not gaze for too long. The unfamiliarity that comes with Valak adds to the fear but The Nun 2’s polished look of the demon makes it easy to identify, and strangely, less menacing. It also doesn’t help that Maurice is incredibly likable and that actor Bloquet is easy on the eyes. If scary, why hot?
Additionally, if Valak truly was this big, powerful demon, then why could it be so easily defeated by one mere nun? We’ve also seen Valak perish multiple times now in the Conjuring and The Nun movies, so how are we to believe that when it returns in future films – which trust us, it will – that it’s actually much stronger than before? At this rate, Valak seems like an ex who stalks you with a brand new fake Instagram account no matter how many times you’ve blocked them. It just gets pesky and annoying and before we know it, we might face some Valak fatigue.
Our biggest gripe with the movie is that after 1 hour and 50 minutes, the story brings us back to square one. We won’t divulge what exactly happens in The Nun 2 for fear of ruining the scary fun, but the events hardly move the story forward from where we last left off in The Nun. We know there is still much to be seen with regard to Valak and Maurice’s story especially since they’ve made multiple mentions and appearances across the universe, mainly Anabelle: Creation (2017), The Conjuring 2, and Anabelle Comes Home (2019) but we’re still not progressing and remain moving in circles.
In all, The Nun 2 is an enjoyable movie if you’re a big fan of the Conjuring universe and franchise, but offers little for everyone else. The fun lies in picking up puzzle pieces and seeing how it fits with the overall story of Anabelle and the Warrens, but that’s only an activity fans can partake in and appreciate. The jump scares are impactful but the overall horror is watered down by ridiculous antics and a loose story that leads us nowhere. There is much to be desired when treating The Nun 2 as a standalone movie in the horror genre, especially when we’ve had true hits like Talk To Me and Evil Dead Rise that will cause more of a reaction from general audiences in recent months.