Valak is back in theaters five years after his first solo film became the highest-grossing film in the entire ‘Warren Files’ universe.. The demon certainly knew how to leave his mark in his brief appearances in the cases of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). In the sequel he continues to make it clear that he is the best creature in the horror saga that has given Warner Bros. so much joy.
The studio has found its particular David Yates in Michael Chaves for ‘The Conjuring’. The director has already taken charge of ‘La Llorona’ and the latest installment of the main saga, ‘The Warren File: Forced by the Devil’. With ‘The Nun 2’ she seeks to maintain the tone of Corin Hardy’s film, at the same time using those obsessions of hers, such as sentimental flashbacks, to develop the characters.
Sister Irene, Taissa Farmiga’s character, leads the adventure alone this time, in the absence of Demián Bichir. The nun (not Valak) is recruited again by the Church to investigate a series of gruesome murders in different parts of Europe that seem to be related to the demon they believed they had sent back to hell. To do this, she will travel to the south of France accompanied by a rebellious novice, played by Storm Reid.. The destination: a girls’ boarding school where an old acquaintance works as a handyman and gardener: Maurice (Jonas Blockt), who we know left Romania with demonic baggage.
‘The Nun 2’ once again uses Catholic imagery to create a terrifying atmosphere. Something extremely easy with paintings with sinister looks, figures that border on the macabre and churches and convents that, in the dark, make your hair stand on end. Chaves already has his finger on the pulse of the saga’s “jumpscares” and he launches them at the right moment, sometimes enjoying himself in the wait so that we viewers end up letting our guard down, believing that he has deceived us.
It is still relatively easy to wait for what is going to happen. When the camera follows Farmiga’s gaze it means that something has changed in the background, or if the scene is recreated in a particular shadow it is not for nothing. This saga is a clear example of “accessible” horror, commercial, the one that can be enjoyed with popcorn and does not hinder digestion, or that allows it to be enjoyed by those with a slightly lower tolerance for being scared. It even surprises with the occasional moment of humor.
Accessible does not mean that it is a weak film. The (few) corpses it leaves are not cut into grotesques. Always within a limit, of course. Genre purists may not be too impressed. As with the burial alive of the first, it connects with phobias as primary as the fear of the dark or (ugh) cockroaches. But what is truly effective is still the sound: Every little noise, creak, scream or step causes chills. The most violent installment of the saga? It has its moments, but none of which make you look away.
Choosing a school as the main setting works because one tends to think that a major movie will not dare to give young children a hard time, but Valak doesn’t disgust anyone. How their high-pitched screams penetrate the eardrum, and how disgusting they can be when the infants are on the other (dark) side.
However, As a location it feels more wasted than the abbey from the first installment. In fact, the entire atmosphere is less claustrophobic and more impersonal. And Valak (Bonnie Aarons) is once again a marvel of demonic grimaces.
Scenes such as the tomb bells or the “circle” of nuns from the first are missed. The sequel, except for the occasional visually successful scene, does not take advantage of a potential that was there. Why not have taken the opportunity to unearth past traumas by having the boarding school run by nuns?
The Da Valak Code
‘The Nun 2’ continues to look for connections in Christian mythology of miracles, saints and relics. Maybe on this occasion too much. If it was already difficult for a skeptic to believe the existence of a crystal egg with the blood of Christ, what the script by Ian Goldberg, Richard Naing and Akela Cooper tries to do is too much of a stretch. There are parts where it feels more like ‘The Da Vinci Code’ than ‘The Warren File’.
Despite certain “ghosts”, Taissa Farmiga defends the position of solo protagonist with solvency, and Jonas Blockt manages to defend both his most charming and his wildest side. And Storm Reid once again shows that she is a bomb of charisma, although I wish she had had more scenes to show off. Although the star remains, without rival, Aarons.
Although the film maintains the pace well, it manages to create tension and provide a few scares, in ‘The Conjuring’ saga, the main films (especially the first two) follow at a very different level compared to the spin-offs. Chaves does a good job, but he still can’t catch up with the master. Good ideas, such as those attempts to humanize the characters, do not go beyond the sketch. As the franchise still has stories to tell (be careful, there is a post-credits scene), we will have to continue waiting for someone to give Valak the movie he deserves.
‘The Nun 2’ premieres in theaters September 8.
The best: The saga can still pack some good scares. The use of sound. Valak stands out again.
Worst: Many half-baked ideas, and some leaps of faith too high. A very little exploited scenario. Fewer memorable scenes.