Monday, October 2, 2023
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Chillingly cold reception to ‘The Nun II’

AP – The Conjuring Universe celebrates 10 years in business this fall with the dull The Nun II, a movie that seems destined to pound a nail into this franchise’s undead coffin.

A new directing and writing team fails to shock or scare with a colour-by-numbers plot and a meandering, languid wannabe frightfest. A few audience members fired up their phones halfway through a recent preview, a bad sign for anyone hoping for a gripping experience.

A sequel to The Nun – the top-earning film in the franchise, with more than USD366 million worldwide – was never going to be denied and the sequel hews carefully to the previous success. You could even say it’s haunted by its better precedent.

This time it is 1956 – four years after the events of The Nun – and a demon is once again stalking Europe. It’s the same horrific Valak we met last time and suspected didn’t die, despite being splashed by blood. “The demon lives,” we are told. Returning are Taissa Farmiga – younger sister of The Conjuring star Vera Farmiga – as wide-eyed Sister Irene, and Jonas Bloquet as Maurice, the French-Canadian hero dripping with charm. The filmmakers attempt to give us more backstory for Sister Irene – mostly flashbacks to her mum – but it doesn’t add much.

Taissa Farmiga as Sister Irene in New Line Cinema’s horror thriller ‘The Nun II’. PHOTO: WARNER BROS/AP

New this time is Storm Reid as a sceptical novice who doesn’t really buy the story. She is well introduced and seems a good foil to Sister Irene’s devoted nun but is soon abandoned.

The screenplay by Ian Goldberg, Richard Naing and Akela Cooper sets most of the action in a boarding school in the South of France as Maurice tries to create a new life with a love interest but a terrible secret threatens his happiness. The characters are thin and there’s lots of padding but the ancient towns the location department found are terrifically eerie and foreboding. The fatal mistake is that Sister Irene gets lost in her own film.

Director Michael Chaves, who also helmed The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, oversees a few great moments – a possessed newsstand with all the magazine pages frantically flipping is awesome – but it’s mostly the same flashlights-and-heavy-footsteps stuff. Wait for the quick cut, jump, wait, repeat.

The Nun II apes the structure of its predecessor as our heroine needs to find a powerful relic to defeat the demon – and maybe Satan also, who appears as a goat but weirdly can be hindered by a strong wooden door. There’s a Dan Brown-esque feel as Sister Irene searches for clues in ancient Vatican archives.

Is it mere coincidence that this year also marks a truly poor Insidious outing? Both these low-budget, Patrick Wilson-connected horror franchises need a good startling. Or CPR paddles.

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