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The Conjuring Universe has always naturally relied on The Conjuring films as its backbone (I know, what an earth shattering revelation that is!) but with a few spin-offs really breaking out into something special (see Annabelle: Creation), this universe still has a fair few tricks up its sleeve.
However, despite coming off the back of the incredible success of Bonnie Aarons’ blasphemous demon Valek (aka The Nun) in The Conjuring 2, the character’s solo outing back in 2018 was met with a poorer reception, so Michael Chaves’ sequel/spin-off The Nun II looks to show that there is still frights to be had with The NuThis tale, set four years after the first film, sees Sister Irene ( a returning and equally good Taissa Farmiga) finding peace, until she is called upon by the religious powers that be to once more seek out and come face to face with Valek at a boarding school in France, where the entity is wreaking havoc, as it is seemingly seeking something. Setting in motion a high stakes battle between good and evil once again.
I rather enjoyed The Nun II. The final act leaves some room for improvement but there are some very intriguing sight-based scares along the way, that are very well delivered, such as the magazine rack or wall mould sequences, and every now and then the film has a crack of nasty energy that keeps things moving at an energetic lick. It also has a welcome Annabelle Comes Home edge of fantastical horror to it, as The Nun II dips its toes into some monster-esque areas, if not quite in as delightfully off the chain fashion as the aforementioned Annabelle threequel.
The film admirably seeks to expand upon the modern horror legend, by adding more backstory to Valek, explaining the demon’s origin and power to be, which nicely sets up some of the events that would canonically follow in The Conjuring 2 (set 20 years after this film).
Overall treading familiar paths, the film has some fun tweaks, particularly the investigative and artefact-based angle the plot comes to take on, which comes as a pleasant surprise (even if it could go further), before things naturally descend into fiery CG bombast. In fact, the film has a similar vibe to the recent The Pope’s Exorcist in many respects.
Certainly better than the atmospheric but slow first film, if still a few rungs below this universe’s best stuff. It would also have been nice to actually see more of Aarons’ Valak (who is often disguised in other forms throughout) but I had a fun night at the movies with this and I think it delivers on most of the promises made. There’s nuns, there’s jumps, there’s bumps and there’s a barbecued priest thrown in for good measure.
Stay for a mid-credits confirmation of what is on the way next…