Following the events of 'The Nun', Sister Irene Palmer (Taissa Farmiga) lives in seclusion in France and is haunted by the memories of her ordeal with the demon Valak (Bonnie Aarons). When a series of brutal murders across Europe point to the demon's return, Sister Irene sets off to a convent school where its caretaker is Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), her companion in defeating Valak who now hides a dark and terrible secret...
Given how 'The Nun' was an enjoyably silly affair with elements of Hammer Horror thrown into the mixture, it's a shame to see 'The Nun II' take itself far too seriously for its own good. After all, 'The Nun' was itself a spin-off from 'The Conjuring' franchise, which was reliably aware of its own pulpy and knock-off roots. Instead, 'The Nun II' tries and fails to build tension and atmosphere out of something that isn't capable of sustaining it, and only really begins to ramp up in the final 15 minutes after spending the previous 90 minutes boring itself to death.
Taissa Farmiga's character, even though she's haunted by her visions of an evil nun and has a companion in Storm Reid this time around, has precious little depth or development going on here. Sure, she's a woman of faith and is privy to the darkness of the damned, but does any of it move her or make her terrified? It may be that Farmiga's performance is trying to project a kind of steely resolve, but it translates into a sort of blankness that makes it difficult to really connect. Where much of 'The Nun II' gets its core is from the budding romance between Jonas Bloquet and Anna Popplewell doing a terrific Irish accent with her on-screen daughter, Katelyn Rose Downey.
Again, this is where 'The Nun II' begins to try and become more serious and emotionally wrought and it feels like a mistake. While these three do give committed and vibrant performances and their story is well-written, it feels completely out of step with the rest of the movie. For example, there's a stuffy headteacher in the convent who gets filled up with cockroaches and the holy relic that's going to destroy Valak is a pair of eyes housed in what looks like a potpourri ashtray.
You almost can see how director Michael Chaves and writers Akela Cooper and Ian Goldberg wanted to take 'The Nun' away from the pulpiness of 'The Conjuring' and make something of substance, but it ultimately doesn't work because there's not enough development of characters or anything remotely unique or exciting here to explore or unearth. The cinematography and the setting are all gorgeous, and you can really see that there's a remarkable amount of care and diligence in the composition of some shots, but it's just not enough to save it from itself. Really, you're just left with a retread of the first one with a much more dull approach.
At least the first one knew it was kind of crap and leaned into it. 'The Nun II' thinks far too highly of itself.