A modern horror movie icon is back to stir up more nightmares. Who can that be? It’s the defiler! The profane! The marquis of snakes! While Annabelle has gotten a series of movies, Valak (Bonnie Aarons) is quickly stacking up a fair number of spin-offs too. There’s just something malevolent and delightful in watching the demonic entity creep up on victims. Before watching The Nun II (2023), here’s a recap on what went down in the first movie, 2018’s The Nun. We wouldn’t blame you for forgetting; after all, it was five years ago or maybe you forgot because you were covering your eyes for one scene too many. Valak is no merry woman of the cloth, à la Sister Act, it’s a sinful monster with no mercy to give.
What Is ‘The Nun’ About?
The 2018 prequel and spin-off begins with sound bites from The Conjuring movies, featuring Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), who gravely warns about the inhuman spirit that is Valak. The story then goes to the past, taking place in 1952 at the secluded abbey of St. Carta in Romania. The land is overgrown, with wooden crosses planted into the dirt, a place that is dreary in the day and foggy at night. In the bowels of the abbey, various crosses hang in a corridor, where two nuns approach a door with, “God Ends Here,” carved into the wood. The oldest nun is swiftly dragged to her death, but not before handing off to the younger nun a special key that must be guarded.
The roars coming out of the darkness are enough to know how “inhuman” Valak is, the appearance of a pallid human is a wolf hiding in sheep’s clothing. Valak isn’t by any means trying to disguise itself, the form is petrifying for the religious individuals it hunts down. The second nun chooses to hang herself to escape the demon’s clutches and sacrifices herself to protect the key. The next morning, a French-Canadian farmer, affectionately called Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), arrives at the abbey, spotting the hung corpse and realizing the ground he stands on is not so sacred. There is more religious horror to come.
Who Does Taissa Farmiga Play in ‘The Nun’?
At the Vatican, the nun’s suicide worries many. Father Burke (Demián Bichir) is assigned to travel to Romania and investigate the abbey for unusual Catholic phenomena, what is unofficially termed, “miracle hunting.” He’s given a partner he must bring along as well. Taissa Farmiga as Sister Irene is either a strange bit of stunt casting or setting up a possible link to older sister Vera Farmiga, with nothing established yet. As for Irene’s part in The Nun, the young woman hasn’t taken her vows yet; she’s inexperienced, although unafraid of teaching about the relationship that can exist between science and faith. While she is uncertain about what importance she can provide to Father Burke, she goes along, and the two journey to Romania where they meet Frenchie.
Frenchie makes it clear how frightened the locals are of the abbey, which accidentally ends up making him the only tour guide available for the travelers. Like an easter egg, The Nun teases Valak’s name as other movies have done before. Look closely as Sister Irene and Father Burke prepare to head to the Abbey, you will see a truck’s license plate with “6 VA 01LAK.” Far away from the nearest village, the body of the dead nun has been left in the icehouse by Frenchie, and it’s noticeably in a different position. There is no shortage of weird activity. The scarce nuns Burke and Irene find are cryptic, pushing the visitors to take up lodging at the attached convent until the next day. It doesn’t take long for supernatural terrors to start up.
Come nightfall, Frenchie leaves Father Burke and Sister Irene to investigate and Frenchie barely gets away from an attack by a zombified version of the hung nun. At the abbey, there is a small heart-to-heart. Burke reveals his role in an exorcism that went fatally wrong for a young boy and Irene explains how she had visions when she was younger where each ended on, “Mary points the way.” If this message seems like foreshadowing for a larger importance to the plot, you would be correct. Sister Irene is also perceptive, sometimes without realizing it. She notices an old photo on the wall showing a nun from Annabelle: Creation but is unable to see Valak on the edges. Later, the supernatural threat targets the abbey’s overnight guests, where Burke is buried alive with no help in sight.
Who Is Valak in the Conjuring Franchise?
Sister Irene is busy with her own haunting. Valak loves to creep in the shadows of the Warren home, like what happened to Lorraine in The Conjuring 2, and that sequel sets up key aspects of Valak that are in The Nun. The demon has glaring white (or yellow) eyes, and it sure does love to cast a shadow on the walls, approaching the victims slowly before going in for a jump scare. But Irene gets away from the demon, using her cognitive gift to find and free Burke. It would be smarter if the two left, although wandering into the night wouldn’t be smart either. The two remain, Father Burke stubborn enough and Sister Irene pious enough, both preparing to find out what is happening at the abbey.
Sister Irene is Valak’s opposite, dressed in all white as the archenemy of the blasphemous demon. From the ancient books that Father Burke reads, to the few nuns Sister Irene encounters, the two learn about the origins of the abbey. It was a castle in the Middle Ages, where an unnamed duke, obsessed with the occult, dabbled recklessly in black magic. He opened a rift to Hell that allowed Valak to enter the world, but Templar knights killed the duke and sealed the gateway, using an ancient vial of the Blood of Christ to close the rift. It would stay closed for centuries until World War II bombings put cracks in it. Since then, nuns who occupy the abbey take shifts to pray, hoping to avert the return of the demon.
What Happens at the End of ‘The Nun’?
Irene soon realizes the few nuns she has been seeing and talking to are ghosts, killed by Valak, and their spirits manipulated to be used as a new scare tactic. The demon’s goal is to destroy the Blood of Christ and escape. To be fully prepared, Irene chooses to take her vows. The priest and newly professed nun won’t be battling the demon alone, Frenchie returns, fearing the worst over their fates. The visions Irene had in the past finally make sense, as does her purpose when a statue of the Virgin Mary “points the way” to where the Blood of Christ is hidden. But Valak isn’t a demon to go down with cloven hooves up in surrender!
It attempts one last attack, conjuring up a snake that bites Burke in the eye. Frenchie is nearly strangled before getting knocked unconscious by Valak. This leaves Irene for the last stand. In one of the best visuals of The Nun, Irene is thrown into a flooded chamber and stares in horror as Valak emerges from the nearby water. The slow reveal, with the score that sounds like an infernal choir, and Bonnie Aarons, all come together for a scene to show off how imposing Valak is. In a defensive move that may not work logically in how the scene plays out, Sister Irene manages to take the Blood of Christ in her mouth while underwater, and when she’s pulled up to the surface by Valak, Irene spits the holy acid onto the demon. It may not make sense in how it’s accomplished, but it looks badass and is enough to banish Valak — until the sequel.
Sister Irene defeats the demon, but it’s short-term. What is long-term is the pain Valak leaves behind. Frenchie is doomed, his real name is Maurice, and he’s shown to be the possessed man the Warrens try to help in the first Conjuring, where Lorraine suffers from a vision of Ed’s death and a glimpse of Valak. Even though Annabelle went on to get her own spin-offs, there is little that can be done with the inanimate monster, unlike Valak, who may be silent but is far more mobile. In The Nun II, there’s the dread in knowing this won’t be the end to the demonic entity and the survival of Sister Irene is not definite a second time around.
The Nun II hits theaters on September 8.