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The Nun 2 review (2023) - more scares, same Valak issues

The Nun 2 is packed with promising moments but, unfortunately, it fails to be a Conjuring movie standout thanks to a bare script and directionless Varlak.

The Nun 2 review: Sister Irene and the demon Varlak behind her

Our Verdict

The Nun 2 is a spooky step up but still feels like a rinse and repeat of the standard Conjuring formula.

In 2018, the world was gripped by the terrifying image of a demon Nun with bright eyes. In fact, the first The Nun movie made the blasphemous habit and colored contacts look iconic, as it officially introduced us to one of the main villains in The Conjuring Universe. However, despite Valak’s Halloween-worthy aesthetics, the monster’s long-awaited introduction into the IP was lacking in scares. So, needless to say, The Nun 2 had its work cut out, as fans eagerly waited to see if the sequel could finally do the pop cultural phenomenon justice.

Directed by Michael Chaves, who made his directorial debut in 2019 with The Conjuring spin-off The Curse of La Llorona, The Nun 2 does manage to surpass its predecessor in terms of story and unique jump scares. Following on from the events of the first film, we learn that Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) is living quietly in a new covenant until she is suddenly called back into duty once it’s discovered that religious figures all over France are mysteriously dying.

If you haven’t watched all of The Conjuring movies in order and need a refresher, Valak – the demon Nun – possessed the handyman Maurice (Jonas Bloquet) at the end of the 2018 movie. So poor Maurice is back in trouble once again, working overtime as a demonic taxi by taking Valak (Bonnie Aarons) to various churches in France. Maurice, unaware of his evil mind passenger, settles at a girls’ boarding school, where an abandoned chapel holds a powerful secret that Valak is dying to get its hands on.

As you can expect, haunting shenanigans complete with CGI hellfire and young students encountering monsters in the hallways and shadows of their school ensue. The sequel does relish in exploring Valak’s power, giving us new forms and dynamic cinematography that teases the boundaries between reality and nightmares.

However, for true veterans who’ve seen all the best horror movies before, you may find yourself frustrated by the constant over-editing with its sound work to startle folks used throughout the film instead of actually terrifying imagery. But, despite the deafening sound of door creeks and screams in The Nun 2, it is clear that Chaves has some strong horror visions here.

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Irene’s dreams give us some of the most unique sequences in The Conjuring franchise and play on psychological and folk horror tropes. And similarly, Bloquet’s early stages of possession are eerily quiet, reminiscent of films such as Blair Witch. These moments are The Nun 2’s best. But they are still few and far between, scattered among cheap scares and predictable hauntings, leaving us unsatisfied. It’s an improvement, but still lacking and not enough to make the new film a franchise standout – much like The Nun 2’s script.

Unlike the first The Nun movie, The Nun 2 follows the standard Conjuring formula. Just like Lorraine and Ed Warren in the main series, Irene and her new partner, Sister Debrah (Storm Reid), are tasked with a mission: find the demon, find out what it wants, and stop it. The plot is easy to follow, and unlike the first film, Valak’s comeback is structured and somewhat engaging.

However, The Nun 2 suffers from two main story pain points even with its improved approach. Firstly, exposition is stuffed into scenes, and Valak’s motivation for finding the relic is dismissed as simply his demonic nature. Secondly, the ghost movie suffers from the same curse that every long-running horror franchise does – predictability.

The Nun 2 review: Sister Irene surrounded by visions of multiple Varlaks on the streets of France in The Nun 2

Irene’s backstory feels forced, Valak seems one-dimensional, and the stakes feel incredibly low as a result. Valak is a recurring figure in The Conjuring, yet we have no clue what its purpose is. Having a simply evil empty shell as the main baddie may work for a single film, but it gets stale after a decade of movies. Looking at other horror icons, we can see how important some character work is.

For example, Jason from the Friday the 13th movies still had a backstory; he had a motivation for killing promiscuous teens. A battered ski mask and a haunted religious habit can only get you so far. You need some sort of purpose to become a true demonic icon.

The Nun 2 is a massive improvement from its 2018 predecessor but is ultimately hampered by its script and abundance of cheap scares. Valak’s role in the IP is still as confused as ever, and we’ll no doubt see another attempt to correct the villain’s timeline standing in another spin-off movie.

However, on the bright side, the film does tint towards more inventive visuals and sports a cast of talented actors who all make this an easy popcorn flick to enjoy this spooky season.

The Nun 2 hits cinemas on Friday, September 8, 2023. For more on the film, check out our guides on the complete Nun 2 cast list, and if the Nun 2 has a post-credit scene. We also have everything you need to know about The Conjuring 4 release date, and an article breaking down all the new movies heading our way this year.

Finally, for more quality picks, here are our lists of the best movies of all time and the best monster movies ever made.