The Nun 2 (2023)
Directed by Michael Chaves
Written by Ian Goldberg, Richard Naing, Akela Cooper
Starring Taissa Farmiga, Storm Reid, Jonas Bloquet, Anna Popplewell, Bonnie Aarons
Release Date September 8th, 2023
Published September 8th, 2023
After honestly enjoying a rewatch of The Nun (2018) recently, I was pretty excited for the sequel. The thing that I really enjoyed about The Nun is the design of the villain, Valek, The Nun. She's terrifying to look at and actress Bonnie Aarons infuses her presence with menacing physicality. It's a mostly silent performance and she has a silent film villain quality that I really enjoy. She reminds me of something out of the classic German silent horror movie lore. That's kind of awesome for a modern horror villain.
I also appreciated how clean her motivations are as a villain. The main issue I take with The Conjuring Universe is the vagary. Whether it is a lack of care or a desire to make their villains mysterious, we're never allowed to understand what motivates the evil entities. Why possess children or old women? How does slamming doors or knocking pictures off the wall serve the ultimate purpose of these villains? Why all of the farting around playing scary pranks? Why not just do the thing you came her to do?
The Nun made very clear that Valek has a goal, to escape from her Hellish prison in Romania. Once escaped, as we learn in this movie, her goal is revenge on the line of a religious order that punished her with an ultimate goal of obtaining a thing that will expand her powers. Cool, she has a purpose and she sets herself to achieving that purpose. Sadly, in The Nun 2, it's clear that there was a studio mandate that we get more scares and a body count.
The first film had a mostly off camera body count. Nuns in an Abbey in Romania have been dying by suicide, or so we are told. The reality is the evil of Valek killing them. We only find this out after the Nun's are dead and their deaths are investigated by Father Burke (Demian Bechir) and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) who encounter their ghosts and the evil of Valek that is attempting to escape. Most of The Nun is about atmosphere and lore and that was really fun.
The sequel sadly, gives into the studio mandate for more blood and a body count. I'm not opposed to those things, this is a horror movie after all, but the movie needed to answer for why Valek needs to do what she does. That works in the opening scene when we witness Valek brutally murdering a Priest whom she lights on fire. We will come to learn why she did that and how it pushes her agenda as the movie unfolds. But, sadly, there are several side quests that don't make nearly as much sense. One big one involves Valek murdering the headmistress of an ancient boarding school.
Then there is an extended sequence involving a Goat Man that I am honestly baffled by. Why did this happen? What purpose did this serve? The Goat Man character doesn't even appear related to Valek. It is as if the movie is being interrupted by a different horror movie entirely. Valek knows exactly what she is here to do in this old boarding school, why would she waste any time menacing school girls with a Goat Man? It just raises to many needless questions. The Goat Man also resurrects the Headmistress solely for a jump scare and once again, I was annoyed by how superfluous this is to the main plot.
Oh yeah, the main plot. Returning from the first film is Frenchie AKA Maurice (Jonas Bloquet). Valek managed to escape the first film by hiding away inside poor Maurice and has, since then, traveled the world in his body and using him to kill her way toward the ancient magical religious item she's been searching for. Via a vision of a tortured Maurice, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) is drawn into the story. She owes Maurice for saving her life in the first film and she sets out to save him this time. She's joined by the rebellious Sister Debra (Storm Reid).
Where is Father Burke you ask? Don't ask, you won't like the answer. Demian Bichir was busy on a different project and was unable to return. How they write him off is... disappointing. That's all I will say about it. Regardless, the stars of this franchise are Taissa Farmiga and Bonnie Aarons and they are both in fine form in The Nun 2. There is something so lovely and sympathetic about Taissa Farmiga. She has the most expressive eyes and while she seems incredibly vulnerable, it's a great cover for a really strong character. Sister Irene gets a little bit more lore in The Nun 2. We get a little more backstory, particularly related to her family and it all adds up to us liking and rooting for her even more.
The ending of The Nun 2 is pretty great. The showdown between Sister Irene and Valek is filled with lore and excitement. It's scary, it has high stakes, it's just terrific. Taissa Farmiga shines in the final battle against Valek and the movie goes to great lengths to show off how awesome and imposing Bonnie Aarons is as Valek. Her face, her physical presence, those incredibly terrifying eyes, it all comes together for a terrific horror movie ending that uses the lore of The Conjuring universe to create some genuine suspense.
That said, there is a rather odd disconnect between the ending of this film and the ending of The Nun. The first film ended on a coda regarding Maurice and his future in The Conjuring Universe. There is a bridge to introducing the Warrens at the end of The Nun 1 because that film is set before the first The Conjuring movie. Going back to do The Nun 2 and using Maurice as the vessel to carry Valek forward raises questions that the second movie cannot quite fully address. This is so much so that the mid-credits scene has to vaguely re-establish the ending coda of The Nun 2018 and it only leaves us more confused. It appears, to me, that we are probably getting another The Nun movie but sadly, that will likely be with The Warren family and not with Sister Irene.
Did I like The Nun 2? Yeah, for the most part, I did. I didn't enjoy it as much as the first movie. That film was tightly constructed, focused and didn't waste time on side quests. The Nun 2 brings some of the B.S that I hate about The Conjuring movies into The Nun franchise and The Nun 2 is lesser for it. Why was there a Goat Man? What did that have to do with what Valek wanted? Why add that to the movie? It's very silly and distracting. It's padding the runtime needlessly. This should have been a much clearer bridge between The Nun 1 and the introduction of the Warrens from The Conjuring movies. Instead, The Nun 2 muddies the waters of both franchises and will require an entire new movie to explain how these movies fit together. And without Taissa Farmiga, I'm not excited for that movie.
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