The Nun 2 Review: The Conjuring Universe Is Stretching Thin

Find out if The Nun 2 is a worthy sequel to The Conjuring franchise spin-off film in our official review.

The Nun II is the eighth film in The Conjuring franchise, and it's also the clearest example yet that this franchise is starting to stretch itself thin. The story of the sequel picks up four years after the first film, in 1956. Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) has been trying to live a quiet life in a convent in Italy. Meanwhile, Frenchie/Maurice (Jonas Bloquet) has been slowly making his way across Europe, still unaware that the dreaded demon Valak attached itself to him when he save Irene from being possessed in the first film. However, as Valak gets closer and closer to a holy artifact that's been missing for years, its evil begins to manifest in stronger and stronger waves at a boarding school in Tarascon, France. Eventually, the church gets wind that the demon is still alive and active, and Irene is recruited to hunt down and battle the evil entity again. 

Valak is arguably the scariest demonic entity in the entire Conjuring franchise, but two films in, it still feels like The Nun series doesn't know how to make Valak an effective horror icon worthy of its own spotlight. The pace of The Nun II is muddled, and the scares are middling, at best. Even more egregious is the fact The Nun II ultimately sets itself up to be a middling chapter of yet another Conjuring spin-off trilogy, stretching all credibility (and arguably viewer interest) to the brink in order to do so. 

Like the first film, The Nun II isn't really clear about establishing what "rules" there are to govern Valak and its power, making for a perplexing and uneven horror experience. We're shown in the opening how Valak can burn a priest alive in a church, and murder a child soon thereafter – but then the body count and mayhem largely take a backseat to the convoluted multi-thread story. The screenplay by Ian Goldberg (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Richard Naing, and Akela Cooper (M3GAN) indeed takes on more than it should, with Maurice and Irene both getting the protagonist's attention, even though the former is also the main antagonist. The result is Irene's story feeling a bit shorted, while Maurice isn't quite the focal point the franchise needs him to be. The sequel also fails to really progress any of the character dynamics between Irene and Maurice, which arguably gave the first film chemistry that is sorely missing from the sequel. A storyline about Maurice trying to make a surrogate family with a single mother and her oddball daughter at the school is one that few Conjuring fans will probably be interested in seeing play out. 

In terms of direction, Conjuring veteran Michael Chaves (The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, The Curse of La Llorona) proves to be a much more competent and visually talented director than The Nun director Corin Hardy. Chaves at least knows how to use shadows and light and bait-and-switch frames of imagery to make Valak's presence feel truly unnerving and downright scary in blink-and-miss-it ways that will have fans checking every shadowy corner twice. 

The cast is a mixed bag. Taissa Farmiga is once again just suitable as Sister Irene – although, once again, the script doesn't really endow the character with much intrigue. A deeper backstory for Irene ends up feeling as peripheral as her entire presence in the film. Meanwhile, Storm Reid (The Last of Us, Missing) quickly establishes herself as a more dynamic and interesting nun character as Sister Debra – even though the film gives her limited screen time to shine in. The opposite can be said for actor Jonas Bloquet's storyline as Maurice. Bloquet was charming and charismatic in the first film; in the sequel, he adds a captivating and scary new layer to the character, with his tragically tormented version of Frenchie. However, Anna Popplewell (The Chronicles of Narnia) seems to barely register as Maurice's new love interest Kate – but young Katelyn Rose Downey shows talent as oddball student (and Kate's daughter) Sophie. 

It's hard to explain how The Nun II even justifies its own existence. We learned how Valak escaped into the world in the first film, and we already know how Maurice's story ends with Ed and Lorraine Warren finally exorcising the demon and setting up their own feud with Valak that ends in The Conjuring 2. Shoehorning a middle chapter to that arc serves nothing, and no one, other than to push The Conjuring Universe to nine films, once The Conjuring 4: Last Rites brings things to a close.  

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

The Nun 2 is now in theaters.