With vacuously dark halls, ominously clothed figures, haunting chants, and a rich history mired with controversy, the church provides arguably one of the best settings for horror.
Religious horror films have flourished within the industry for years with movies such as The Exorcist becoming wildly popular among cinematic fanatics. While popular, the genre of religious horror can be controversial in nature as these films inherently dive into a topic which has deep-rooted connections in many aspects of culture and society. But every so often, a movie comes along that transcends societal restrictions and appeals to even the most religious of horror lovers.
Michael Chaves’ The Nun II, a sequel to The Nun which was released in 2018, is the ninth installment within the Conjuring Universe franchise. The sequel confronts the fears of many children who grew up in a church setting. Filled with images of dark cupboards below churches and locked chapels with disturbing iconography prominent on the stained glass windows, The Nun II forces its audience to confront its childhood fears.
Following the events of the first movie, a demon named Valak continues to wreak havoc on members of the Catholic Church, punishing servants of God. The demon manifests itself in the face of a pale-skinned nun with chilling bright green eyes and a long black habit that allows the nightmarish figure to glide across the screen effortlessly. The movie takes place in various locations throughout Europe, opening in France with a young altar boy named Jacques who is the first victim of the horrific entity which plagues the characters of the film. The main plot of the story, however, follows a nun named Sister Irene, who nearly died fighting off Valak in the first film.
Believing the demon had been sent back to hell, Sister Irene lived peacefully in a cloistered convent until she unwillingly got pulled back into the realm of demon hunting. A string of suicides in churches trailing across Europe led the Vatican to believe that a demonic presence was sweeping the continent and aiding religious figures in committing a cardinal sin. Sister Irene reluctantly accepts her call to face the demon and put an end to the evil force ravaging churches and convents across Europe.
The set design for the film engrosses viewers in a terrifying religious world, making places of worship akin to that of nightmares. From start to finish the various dark and brooding settings set the tone for this movie, fully immersing the viewer in the realm of terror the characters find themselves in.
The tense interactions between characters keep the viewer captivated in between the suspenseful moments of terror. Two plot lines emerge throughout the course of the movie, and they both leave the viewer guessing how these separate plots would converge up until the climax of the film.
Chaves masterfully ties things together in an extremely satisfying way. The plot avoids leaving viewers with questions, as many horror films do. Taissa Farmiga as Sister Irene and Katelyn Rose Downey as Sophie deliver some of the best performances within the Conjuring Universe.
When it comes to the actual horror aspect of the film—the spike of cortisol horror fanatics love—The Nun II rises above the competition. Some of the scares and moments of suspense in The Nun II are wrought with so much intensity and undisrupted pressure that even viewers who do not fall easily to simple jump scares or loud noises and screams will be on the edge of their seat.
The Nun II is on par with that of The Conjuring I and II and, by the looks of it, future installations within this feverishly horrific franchise will continue to bring the fright factor for years to come.