So we’re done with franchises and world-building, so what comes next? Original content? With the MCU expansion sparking the trend for creating cinematic universes, it’s also now seen as the only franchise that really benefited from such expansion. The only other comparable success has been horror’s Conjuring Universe, of which The Nun II is the ninth and almost certainly not the last entry. But despite a bright start, the sequence of films following on from The Conjuring has lost energy and momentum of late; the Crooked Man film never came out, and a brief post-credits reminder here about psychic investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren only posts further evidence that the main psychic investigator story has been submerged by side characters and sub-missions.
All that said, The Nun movies seem to be the most popular of the various haunted variations (the weeping woman of La Llorona, the possessed doll Annabelle), and while none of the Conjuring franchise movies are truly great, they’re always a bit classier than most horror. Production values are remarkably high in Michael Chaves’ film, all the more stylish for being a period effort set way, back in 1956 France. Taissa Farmiga, daughter of Conjuring star Vera, returns as Sister Irene, a young nun who goes on the run to confront a demon nun also known as, checks notes, Demon Nun. Could handyman Maurice (Jonas Bloquet) have retained some kind of evil from his possession in the previous film?
The Nun II has some choice moments, the best of which is front and centre in the trailer, as Sister Irene watches a magazine stand in a dimly sit street; the wind blows the covers open and flips through the pages, eventually revealing a composite image of the towering Demon Nun made up of multiple images. The Nun films seem to be successful even as the over-arching Conjuring narrative sputters, largely because they deliver such visually imaginative shocks, even if the connective narrative tissue between the visuals turns out to be rather unimportant.
The Nun films are box-office winners, probably because they tap into a more serious brand of faith-based horror; there’s a certain conviction about the way that they re-enforce the audience’s religious ideas; Sister Irene has a side-kick friend Debra (Storm Reid) who is also in training, and struggles to understand the Catholic belief in transubstantiation. That specific issue turns out to be a major plot point, leading to a fairly ingenious and outrageous moment in the climax, no spoilers here. But that emphasis on belief is what elevates The Nun movies where many fail; it may look like a ghost train ride, but the desire to tap into our current sense of spiritual malaise, if not crisis, is what makes them unexpectedly click like a floorboard under your bed in the middle of the night.