The Nun II picks up where 2018's The Nun left off, as Valak, the burning-eyed, fanged demon that dresses like a nun, has piggybacked its way from Romania to southern France in the 1950s, wreaking havoc on unfortunate victims as it goes.
Currently in theaters (where it's doing well, with a $32.6M opening weekend), The Nun II is the latest entry in The Conjuring franchise.
But, it's not one of the films with The Conjuring in its title. Those are loosely based on the work of Catholic paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga).
What Is The Nun II About?
Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga, Vera's younger sister) returns from The Nun. This time, she's a fully professed sister rather than just a novice.
She's living quietly at a convent in Italy. There, the other sisters gossip about the nun who took on a demon -- unaware that she lives in their midst. But the Vatican knows where she is -- which is good, because it has need of her.
Apparently the demonic Valak was not completely defeated in the first film, and it's continued its killing ways.
Sister Irene also has a new pal, young Sister Deborah (Storm Reid) and a new mission -- once again saving the world (or at least a girls' boarding school) from Valak.
Sadly, cholera killed her priest sidekick from The Nun, so a cardinal sends Sister Irene out solo -- until Sister Deborah tags along. They head to a French town to investigate the latest killing, the immolation of a priest.
Once again, Sister Irene has visions, but now they include her old pal from Romania, French-Canadian handyman Maurice (Jonas Bloquet), a k a Frenchie.
As fans of The Nun know, Valak grabbed hold of Frenchie at the end of the first movie, and now is using him as a vessel in between murdering innocent people.
Frenchie's working at the school, where he's befriended a young pupil (Katelyn Rose Downey), whose teacher mother (Anna Popplewell) has caught his eye.
But, with Frenchie on the premises, Valak can terrorize the school, a former monastery that is the hiding place of a holy relic, the power of which the demon covets.
How's the Theology in The Nun II?
Well, it's got about as many holes in it as in The Nun, which is to say, it's Swiss cheese. But, as with its predecessor, this film is also drenched in Catholic imagery, imagination and belief.
Other than Sister Irene's visions, nobody here has special powers. Whatever they do to combat Valak or any other demonic forces that might pop up is either from their own strength and courage, or from the power of their prayer, which, ultimately, calls upon the power of Christ.
Whether it's expressed through a Crucifix or a Rosary or a whole bunch of somehow-consecrated wine (just remember, we are bound by the laws of Christ's Church, but Christ can do whatever He wants), all power flows from God alone.
It's rare enough that a film these days even respects Catholicism, let alone supporting the idea that God is real, Christ is real, demons are real, and prayer, faith and Sacraments are real and not just the spiritual equivalent of a warm blankie.
Also, despite the presence of the handsome Frenchie, Sister Irene remains true to her vows.
But, Is It Catholic?
Very, within the context of a pulp horror movie. And while Sister Deborah still harbors some doubts (I think she gets over them by the end), the film celebrates Catholicism, especially when it comes to battling ultimate evil.
But, Catholics want to make sure that their suspension-of-disbelief switch is turned on. After all, this is a horror/thriller movie, not a documentary on exorcism.
This time around, we're also introduced, as I said above, to the notion of holy relics. I won't tell you what the relic is, but it is connected to St. Lucy and, through her, to her "descendants."
(BTW, she died a virgin martyr, so she doesn't have any. But, I quibble.)
Valak covets the power of the relic, for reasons that are explained in the movie but really aren't grounded in actual theology. You just have to go with it.
Also, the film confirms the Real Presence in the Eucharist, in which the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ are fully present under the appearance of consecrated bread and wine.
The Church Shines in Catholic Horror Films
Whether it's in such films as the classic The Exorcist, the recent The Pope's Exorcist, or the rest of The Conjuring franchise, the Church stands as the bulwark between humanity and supernatural horrors.
While The Exorcist took itself more seriously than the other movies mentioned above, all of them -- no matter how over-the-top the special effects, or how ludicrous the plot -- affirm that the power of Christ, wielded through the Church, compels the devil and his minions.
Many Catholics don't care for movies like this, and I understand that. But, I will say, as a revert, before I came back to the Church, Catholic horror films like this kept a spark alive in me and reminded me that the Church is the one, the only, the original.
Is The Nun II Scary?
There are plenty of jump scares, but the film doesn't have the creeping sense of menace of The Exorcist, or even The Omen. There are some nice cinematic touches, and Taissa Farmiga does a great job as the stoic and slightly melancholy Sister Irene.
But, as with The Pope's Exorcist, these are demons with a capital D. So, you're unlikely to go home and fret that a giant, toothy nun or a galloping goat-man lurks in your closet.
As you might expect for an R-rated film, there is violence, but the gore is kept to a minimum. There's one instance of taking the Lord's name in vain, a couple of minor profanities, and no sexual content or nudity.
Should Catholics See The Nun II?
Sure, if you've enjoyed The Conjuring franchise -- or just like a fun horror movie in general. These films may be wildly overblown and occasionally inaccurate, but their Catholic heart is in the right place.
And, although it's female-centric, The Nun II is blessedly free of the "female empowerment" and anti-male messaging found in what I like to call "you go, girl" movies.
Oh, and when the credits roll, don't hop up and run out. You'll be rewarded if you stick around to the very end.
Reprinted with permission (including edits by the author) from Kate O'Hare's Pax Culturati blog at Patheos.com.
Image: Taissa Farmiga in The Nun II/Credit: Warner Bros
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Content Manager at Family Theater Productions.