Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet, Storm Reid, Anna Popplewell, Bonnie Aarons, Katelyn Rose Downey
Distributor: Universal Pictures International
Runtime: 110 mins. Reviewed in Sep 2023
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
Sister Irene is called to a second mission of exorcism, possession by a demonic nun, in a French church.
It is five years since the appearance of The Nun, part of the successful horror franchise, The Conjuring, based on the real-life activities of exorcist couple, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga who appear again in the final credits. Star of The Nun, Taissa Farmiga, is Vera’s younger sister). The narrative here continues with the storyline as well as key characters from the original, with most comments noting the sequel is better than the original.
In fact, much of the narrative of The Nun II is similar to that of the original (and this reviewer, noting the original review, found that much of it could be re-said here.)
Sister Irene (Farmiga), was commissioned in the first film to be an assistant exorcist with a priest, both sent by the Vatican to Romania, encountering diabolical presences, especially in the form of a sinister and frightening-looking nun. In Romania was a sympathetic gardener, Frenchy, who is also possessed by the demon. That was set in 1952.
This film opens in 1956, and was filmed at an abandoned church in France. Once again, the nun has appeared and a priest literally goes up in flames. In the meantime, there is a girls’ school nearby.
There is a sympathetic gardener, Maurice – who, in fact, is Frenchy, come from Romania (with Belgian actor Bloquet reprising his role), charming everyone.
Back home, Sister Irene listens to rather ghostly tales told with relish by some of the older nuns. She has a friend, Sister Debra (Reid), whose parents have fled the American South with Debra finding herself placed in the convent. She has a sceptical attitude and would love to see a miracle. When a bishop sends Sister Irene to France, reluctantly because she was so scarred by the experience in Romania, Debra accompanies her.
While there have been some scares and frights early in the film, the middle part is the sisters travelling, assessing the situation, seeing what happens in the school.
However, for the last 30 minutes and more, there is no lack of scares, frights, sinister behaviour, diabolical apparitions – and a reminder that Sister Irene feels she was responsible after Frenchy/Maurice had saved her in Romania, that the Demon had entered him (shown in flashbacks). So, he is re-possessed, pursuing the nuns, pursuing a young girl and her mother, terrorising the other students. There is also a monstrous goat. This is very much a female-oriented film, Maurice being the only significant male character. And Debra, who has also been terrorised, declares that she has seen some miracles.
As with the previous film, this is an imagination based on folkloric aspects of Catholicism rather than theology and ritual. Sister Irene, especially not in the 1950s, would not have been an immediate choice to go out on exorcisms. And her rituals, such as they are, are basic, although she and Debra do say the words of consecration and barrels of wine come gushing out destructively – and they have mentioned that a relic used in previous exorcisms was a phial with the blood of Christ. This time, however, there are references to St Lucy, her being blinded, and her eyes kept in a reliquary which certainly achieves exorcism success.
If an audience enjoys this kind of religious horror-exorcism film, there is plenty here.
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