THE NUN II -- Sequel to Unnecessary CONJURING Spin-Off Finally Does Something Different, For Better or Worse
Review by Sean Boelman
The Conjuring was a smash hit in the horror genre, spawning what is one of the most financially successful horror franchises — even if the films since the first haven’t been as lauded. The Nun II continues the prequels surrounding one of the more popular demons from the main franchise, and while the writing is weak as expected, the execution is shockingly somewhat inspired.
The movie takes place four years after the first The Nun, as Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) is asked by the church to investigate a series of suspicious deaths that may have ties to the evil presence she defeated in the last film. Ultimately, as is the case with many of the spin-offs, the writers are really grasping at straws here, trying to make something out of nothing to get a few solid scares.
One thing that has always been frustrating about the Conjuring franchise is how many of the movies stick so closely to the established jump scare formula established by Wan. As a result, it feels like many of the directors — with the arguable exception of David F. Sandberg — are simply aping Wan’s style. While Michael Chaves has already made two Conjuring films that feel that way — The Curse of La Llorona and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It — he actually does something different (and, dare I say, interesting) with The Nun II.
There are some really ambitious sequences in the movie that make this feel a lot bigger than the last one. Yet, The Nun II’s greater reliance on CGI — where the first leaned on the quality of its set design — draws you out of the atmosphere of the spectacular finale. Chaves definitely deserves points for his “go big or go home” approach to the film, but it only pays off some of the time.
That’s not to say The Nun II is a particularly *good* movie either, but it does succeed over some of the spin-offs in that it actually feels like it was directed by a person. The dialogue is often not great, and the movie is too long, too slow, and too convoluted. But there are quite a few moments in the film that surprisingly hit really hard with the scare factor, something this franchise hasn’t done in a while.
However, the thing that allows the core Conjuring movies to work — and where the spin-offs primarily fail — is giving us characters to whom we form a genuine connection. Even beyond the Warrens, the families facing the possessions are generally very compelling. That is not the case with The Nun II, as the returning characters are even more shallow this time around, and the new ones are very archetypal.
It’s a shame — Taissa Farmiga is clearly a talented actress, but she doesn’t seem to have the chops to carry a film (much less a franchise) on her own. Jonas Bloquet is charming enough, but his delivery is extremely wooden at times. They add in Storm Reid to the mix here as a sidekick of sorts to Farmiga’s sister-of-the-cloth-turned-paranormal-investigator, but she is entirely wasted.
The Nun II certainly doesn’t need to exist, and it doesn’t live up to the bar set by the main franchise. However, it does have more than a few effectively spooky sequences, and one could do worse than this when it comes to studio horror movies.
The Nun II hits theaters on September 8.