Directed By Michael Chaves
Starring – Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet, Storm Reid
The Plot – After the events of the first film, the said powerful evil now begins to spread in 1956 throughout a town in France as word gets out that a priest has been violently murdered. A finished contemplative in her novitiate, Sister Irene (Farmiga), begins to investigate the murder, only to find a demon behind it, the same evil that terrorized her in the original film as a nun, Valak, whom she once again soon comes to encounter.
Rated R for violent content and some terror.
Third time is the charm for Chaves, who after monumental failures with “The Nun” and “The Curse of La Llorona”, supplants what is easily his best installment to The Conjuring franchise, and one that he uses to fix most of the nagging issues that plagued his first chapter. Chaves’ scope is much improved here, not only expanding on the characterization of his dual protagonists, whom he justifiably brings along to this next chapter, but also in the shift in scenery to an all-girls school, which provides so many more options and ensuing vulnerabilities in the haunting of Valak than contemporary horror films like these have been known to provide. His direction works wonderfully inside of its dark corridors and hallowed halls, imbedding an atmospherically ominous dread and enveloping danger that manages to keep your attention throughout the duration of the 105 minute run time, and when combined with the picture perfect framing of religious iconography, gives us a shot composition that never wanders far from the realizations of things that can and often will go bump in the night. Aside from Chaves, his leads are also up for the task, with Taissa Farmiga and Jonas Bloquet churning out a lived-in and growed upon brand of chemistry that permeates naturally between them, despite the movie distancing them for a majority of the engagement. Farmiga once more follows in the footsteps of her elder sister already imbedded in The Conjuring universe, this time with a much increased confidence to her faith that pays off in a performance that is equal parts sensitive and commanding, alongside her believable fright. On top of this, while the delivered frights for the movie vary in effectiveness at best, there are a surprising amount of strong action set pieces within this school that spend the budget accordingly on a blend of practical and computer-generated pratfalls continuously pitting our protagonists in environmental elements, while also evading the terror of their supernatural possessor. Finally, while this is a sequel to a prequel to a sequel in an expanding franchise, “The Nun 2” fits surprisingly well among its linear predecessors, especially with a mid-credits sequence that not only prepares its audience for the inevitible future of this franchise, but also conveys that those many tiers established respectively in The Conjuring extended universe, may finally be merging with one another in the most responsible ways to its fandom.
For everything accomplished masterfully in Chaves’ tangible direction, the script from a trio of writers balances its aforementioned prominence with scatter-brained discourse, creating many pocketed moments of peril for the storytelling that robbed it simultaneously of momentum and scares that the film so desparately needed. This begins with placing the conflict on Frenchie this time around, which from hints at “The Nun’s” post-credit sequence, spells out an inevitible future for him, which this time around voids any kind of momentary peril or curiosity for the character, to which so much of the movie’s creative factors rely so heavily on. In addition to this, the structure of the script is sloppy at best, and convenient at worst, abruptly introducing a flimsy macguffin near the beginning of the second act, which we never previously heard of in the film’s predecessor, but now one that we’re supposed to care about for the abundance of problems it possesses if in the wrong hands. The Macguffin does inscribe some urgency to the narrative, mainly in the unknown whereabouts of its final resting place, but it ultimately goes nowhere in its third act exploration, and even worse requires so much suspension of disbelief in the way the characters eventually unearth it, that this momentarily becomes the worst kind of Indiana Jones movie that you’ve ever seen. Beyond this, the frights for the movie are limited and consistently underwhelming, both in the way the over-revealing trailer gave away the best gags of the movie, but also in the restrained execution of its antagonist, which once more wastes away a sought-after R-rating in ways that has me puzzled how these movies continuously earn such a designation. There is blood in the movie, but none of it delivered in the violent manner, and when combined with the minimal amount of time that we get for Valek, doesn’t exactly change my pre-established opinion that this is one of the weakest supernatural antagonists of all-time, with all look, and little shook in the way of her lack of resounding impact. Finally, “The Nun 2” has one of my favorite visuals that I have seen of the cinematic year, but it’s executed in all of the wrong ways that brought laughter instead of horror. There’s a scene involving a satanic goat (You read that right), and instead of establishing this with C.G, which is what you would expect with something so unnatural, the film decides to let an actual actor don a goatman costume, complete with a ridiculous run that doesn’t even try to hide that this is a human being under this costume. It’s kind of awesome in the worst kind of way.
“The Nun 2” nearly bathes in blessed waters, with an expanded scope to scale, and the return of its dynamic protagonists, but damns itself with a lazy, lackadaisical script and lack of scares that continuously haunt its progress in the worst kind of ways. As part of the highest grossing horror franchise of all time, with nine films to its credit, this sequel to a prequel to a sequel isn’t the weakest of entire franchise, but only continues the diminishing returns of installments not featuring Ed or Lorraine Warren, leaving it without a soul to possess.
My Grade: 5/10 or D