The Nun II is set to hit theaters September 8 as the ninth installment in The Conjuring universe – considered to be among the best horror movie franchises, launching with the dramatization of the real-life cases of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The upcoming release is welcome news for fans of the series and for horror movie lovers overall, as we celebrate the first of several spooky offerings to come this Halloween season. Critics have had the opportunity to see the film, a direct sequel to 2018’s The Nun, and they’re sharing their opinions on director Michael Chaves’ latest project.
Taissa Farmiga is back as Sister Irene four years after the events of the previous film. She will once again come face-to-terrifying-face with Bonnie Aarons’ Valak – this time in a French boarding school. First reactions to The Nun II had moviegoers “jumping in their seats,” so now that they’ve had a chance to process what they witnessed; let’s see what the critics have to say, starting with CinemaBlend’s review of The Nun II. Our own Eric Eisenberg rates the movie 3.5 stars out of 5, calling it a proper kickoff to spooky season. He explains:
The new movie does have some struggles that extend directly from its place in the canon, as its timeline positioning as a prequel does have a negative impact on the stakes, but it finds success thanks to its strong main characters, a compelling mystery, and more than a few big time frights. It builds on the story that came before it, and while not delivering the most satisfying ending in the Conjuring Universe, it doesn’t leave a bad taste that spoils the ride.
He isn’t the only critic who mentions the Conjuring universe timeline and specifically the trouble The Nun II has as a prequel/sequel. Jeremy Mathai of SlashFilm says it can't wring as much drama out of its setup, as fans of the franchise already know what happens to key characters. Mathai rates the flick 6 out of 10, saying:
Despite packing in a number of nifty scares and establishing a tone that overtly embraces its own absurdity, the film's inescapable connections to the overall franchise hinder its goals more than it helps. Ultimately, The Nun II doesn't come close to matching the highs of the mainline The Conjuring films. But neither does it succumb to the shortcomings that bedeviled its predecessor. Instead, this follow-up settles for something less ambitious — and somewhat less rewarding — as a result.
Tom Jorgensen of IGN, meanwhile, rates The Nun II a “Good” 7 out of 10, noting that this offering is a marked improvement over its predecessor. The critic credits Taissa Farmiga and Jonas Bloquet with rewarding The Conjuring franchise fans with a scarier, meatier nightmare. In Jorgensen’s words:
The Nun II – which I’ll remind you is a sequel to a prequel to a sequel – ends up being a rather delightful exercise for the franchise. It salvages the elements of The Nun that really worked, improves what didn’t, and puts its lovable lead characters through a series of creative tortures and torments that serve as a reminder that, as the franchise enters its 10th year, the Conjuringverse has plenty of frights left in it.
Neil Smith of GamesRadar disagrees that the sequel outshines the first movie, saying in some departments it’s quite a bit worse. Smith rates the film just 2 out of 5 stars, writing:
It’s definitely wanting on the scares front. The ghoulish trifecta of Bonnie Aarons’ white-faced wimple-wearer, a ghostly altar boy and a demonic goat add up to nary a shudder. And while the returning Taissa Farmiga does everything that can be expected of her as saintly Sister Irene, reluctantly pressed back into service when a string of suicides and immolations point to an evil reawakened, you can’t help sensing both she and Jonas Bloquet (also back as hunky handyman Maurice), are going through contractually obligated motions.
Luke Y. Thompson of AV Club grades the movie a D+, calling the story structure “stupendously misguided” and saying aside from some effective jump scares and makeup tricks, The Nun II doesn’t have a lot to offer. The franchise and the fans deserve better, Thompson says, continuing:
There’s nothing wrong with introducing irritatingly bland characters in a horror sequel, so long as they die. Unfortunately, the body count stays relatively low, with Valak’s standards for who gets murdered—and who just gets messed with—entirely inconsistent. Conjuring franchise veteran Michael Chaves can’t seem to decide if he’s making elevated horror, where you can get away with just scaring people, or exploitation cinema, where the kills are a big part of the appeal.
The critics may not be able to come to a consensus, but horror movie fans and those who love The Conjuring franchise will be able to decide for themselves how successful Michael Chaves’ latest project is when The Nun II is released on Friday, September 8. Be sure to see what else is coming to theaters soon with our 2023 movie release calendar.