Corin Hardy (THE NUN)
Michael Chaves (THE NUN II)
Taissa Farmiga - Sister Irene
Jonas Bloquet - Maurice “Frenchie” Theriault
Bonnie Aarons - The Nun
Demian Bichir - Father Burke (THE NUN)
Ingrid Bisu - Sister Oana (THE NUN)
Charlotte Hope - Sister Victoria (THE NUN)
Storm Reid - Debra (THE NUN II)
Anna Popplewell - Kate (THE NUN II)
Katelyn Rose Downey - Sophie (THE NUN II)
Genre - Horror/Supernatural/Demons/Possession
Running Time - 96 Minutes (THE NUN)/110 Minutes (THE NUN II)
THE NUN - When a young nun at a cloistered abbey in Romania takes her own life, a priest with a haunted past (Demian Bichir) and a novitiate on the threshold of her final vows (Taissa Farmiga) are sent by the Vatican to investigate. Together they uncover the order’s unholy secret. Risking not only their lives but their faith and their very souls, they confront a malevolent force in the form of the same demonic nun (Bonnie Aarons) that first terrorized audiences in THE CONJURING 2 as the abbey becomes a horrific battleground between the living and the damned.
THE NUN II - Four years after the events at the Abbey of St. Carta, Sister Irene returns once again and comes face to face with the demonic force Valak, the Nun.
After taking a much needed break from reviewing since April, I was planning on returning many times for films that were being released theatrically for the past few months. While there were a couple of gems out there [THE BLACKENING and TALK TO ME], the others just left me in a state of “meh”.
THE BOOGEYMAN? Fine, but not motivating enough to discuss.
INSIDIOUS: THE RED DOOR? Underwhelming return for the original cast that probably would have lowered my original score if I had written about it.
THE HAUNTED MANSION? I forgot it even existed and so should you.
THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER? Hopefully for all our sakes.
But I knew I had to return for something. And with 2023’s spooky season finally here, we got some big projects being released. SAW X? THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER? FIVE NIGHT AT FREDDY’S? There are films many of us will be discussing for the next couple of months.
However things are starting early with THE NUN II, another spin-off of the popular and successful THE CONJURING franchise that not many people were all that excited about honestly. Despite watching all three CONJURING flicks [first two are aces, the third one is whatever], I have never sat down and watched any of the spin-offs. No ANNABELLE movies. Not THE NUN flicks. And I never bothered with THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA. But I’m an AMC A-List member and I figured I might as well use my subscription on this. But first, I had to watch the original NUN movie to understand this sequel.
And man… 2018’s THE NUN is not a good movie. In fact, it’s so uneventful that I have already forgotten what I watched [besides the flashbacks and call backs in the sequel]. Audiences must have really loved the Nun character in THE CONJURING 2, which is the only explanation I can come up with when it comes to its good box office numbers. But I’m sure some wished they had never bothered after watching it.
The good? THE NUN has a ton of atmosphere and mood that at least tries to give the movie a creepy vibe that the story and direction fail to do. So great Gothic cinematography boosts the first film, along with a solid cast that also elevates proceedings a bit. Bonnie Aarons is a wonderful presence as the evil Nun, while Taissa Farmiga and Demian Bichir do well with what they’re given as the two main protagonists. Jonas Bloquet is also okay, although his attempt as the comic relief doesn’t really work at all and feels forced.
Other than that, THE NUN is a mess of a spin-off. Director Corin Hardy relies too much on jump scares - none of them work, by the way - making the film feel more annoying than scary. And the story is all over the place, to the point where it’s big ambition to do an INDIANA JONES and DA VINCI CODE type of narrative just takes you out of it and makes you not remember much at all once it’s over. Not only do you have an evil Nun, but you also have a demonic ghost child, the blood of Jesus Christ as a MacGuffin, and a young nun with visions that may or may not be doing more harm than good. The film honestly barely kept my interest despite all of this, mainly because none of these plot devices felt truly developed. THE CONJURING films work because they follow the slow burn, less-is-more approach. THE NUN tries too much and feels like an unnecessary cash in as a result.
Because of my lack of feelings for THE NUN, I honestly wasn’t expecting much out of THE NUN II. But surprisingly, this is a sequel that actually manages to be a huge improvement over the first one in almost every single way. Hell, I liked THE NUN II more than some of the other recent films that I wrote about earlier.
The producers of THE NUN must have realized that despite the money they made, the fan and critical response wasn’t great. And despite this sequel being a total cash grab and unnecessary, I have to actually admire everyone involved for fixing some of the issues and actually trying to make a decently watchable film that felt more focused and purposeful for the overall franchise. I’m not saying that THE NUN II is a masterpiece or even good, but I can respect producers who see the error of their ways to create a film even a hater like me could even enjoy for the most part.
What helps this sequel is that THE NUN II has a tighter, more focused narrative that keeps things as simple as possible, despite it being pretty generic and cliche. There’s an actual course of action from beginning to end that makes sense, allowing characters old and new to develop into actual people we can somewhat care about and/or have a reaction to, despite a larger cast.
Unlike the adventure and mystery style of the first film, THE NUN II is a more straightforward good versus evil, exorcism type of movie that we’ve all seen done multiple times before. And while we’ve already had films this year that have done this [THE POPE’S EXORCIST] and films yet to come [THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER], at least it’s a narrative I can easily understand and get into. Frenchie being possessed by the Nun’s evil gives the movie a reason for Sister Irene to seek him out and reconnect. His possession also justifies why he’s working at a Catholic school and seeking some ancient artifact for his possessor to gain ultimate power. These plot devices allow older characters to grow in a more interesting way that the previous film didn’t allow them to, while giving newer characters a reason to exist - even if most of them are just there to be victims of the evil that’s corrupting the school. Sister Irene’s new friendship and mentorship with nun-in-training Debra is given enough time to develop into something interesting enough that I wouldn’t mind it continuing if there’s another installment. Frenchie’s more serious character is a massive improvement and he becomes a well-written character because of it, especially through his relationships with a woman he previously had feelings for [Irene] and the teacher he falls for [Kate] fleshing him out and giving him a reason to fight against the evil possessing him. We even have a decent mystery and some bullish female characters that will probably elicit some sort of reaction from the audience.
The direction by Michael Chaves, who also directed CONJURING spin-off THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA [which I’ve never bothered with] and THE CONJURING 3 [yuck], does a good job with THE NUN II. The film loses a lot of its atmosphere and mood from the first film unfortunately. But the tone and action is done a lot better here. There’s no unnecessary comedy getting in the way. The jump scares are kept to a minimum. The newsstand scene from the trailer is still effective within the context of the film [great scene]. And the film’s final act is pretty strong, especially when we have the Nun stalking people, a ton of explosions and a good looking Devil-Goat thing that terrorizes the school. Chaves doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything like that, but I thought the film was visually more interesting than the first film.
The actors are also pretty good here again. The returning actors [Farmiga and Blochet] are much stronger in the sequel, due to better writing for their characters and just an overall confidence boost from both of them. Blochet, in particular, is handled much better here than in the first as he’s given more meaty material to chew on. Bonnie Aarons is still wonderful as the evil Nun, maintaining the same level of malevolent presence she had in THE CONJURING 2. The only actor who felt a bit out-of-place is probably Storm Reid as the new nun-in-training Debra. She’s not terrible or anything [actually, she’s good in the role she’s given], but her character is written in such a modern way that her performance doesn’t fit the tone of a 1950s period piece. You get a bit used to it by the film’s end, but it’s definitely jarring for her first few scenes.
THE FINAL HOWL
Even though I had to sit through the bland and unimpressive THE NUN from 2018 in order to watch the current THE NUN II, I’m kind of glad I did since the sequel is a much better time than the first installment. THE NUN skates by with a great atmosphere and decent performances, but not much else. THE NUN II is an improvement in almost every way. Better performances, more care with the jump scares and a more interesting, if not generic, good versus evil exorcism movie that allows some depth to characters who didn’t have much before.
In fact, I had more fun with THE NUN II than a majority of the big screen horror films I’ve watched this summer, which is surprising since I didn’t care about this sequel at all prior to viewing it. I don’t think any of THE NUN films are must-sees or anything, but it may be worth sitting through the dull first movie in order to get caught up with the much more watchable sequel. With the success of the new installment, we’ll probably see more about this character. But we don’t really need NUN of that, do we?
THE NUN (2018)
(4 out of 10)
THE NUN II (2023)
(6 out of 10)