Warning! This article contains major spoilers for The Nun 2. If you've yet to see the movie and don’t want to know how it ends, then turn back now.
The Nun 2 sees Taissa Farmiga's Sister Irene come face to face once again with Valak, as she's forced to protect the students of a French boarding school – and save her old pal Maurice – from the demon. She gets help, fortunately, in the form of fellow nun Sister Debra, pre-teen Sophie and, well… some seriously saintly ancestry. Yep, the protagonist of The Conjuring spin-off is essentially a superhero now, which basically sums up the one big problem with the decade-spanning horror franchise.
Before we dive into why, though, context is required: the newly-released sequel reveals that Irene is a descendant of Saint Lucy, a real-life Roman Christian martyr who, in the movie's narrative, is believed to have had her eyes gouged out before being killed by pagans. Remember the visions Irene experienced in the first film? She has Saint Lucy to thank for those, as does The Conjuring's Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), who is a part of the bloodline as well. Naturally.
Much of the film's final act revolves around Irene and Debra trying to acquire Saint Lucy's eyes, now a fabled relic, before Valak does. In the sequel's climax, the true, disbelief-suspending extent of Irene's gifts becomes apparent when she uses her mind – bolstered by the eyes – to keep herself from being burned alive when Maurice sets her habit on fire, as well as turning all of the barreled wine present in the scene into the blood of Christ. Having remembered it was a vial of the red stuff that took Valak down during their previous grudge match, she explodes the kegs, dousing the demon and damning her back to hell. In the moment, I found it all pretty thrilling but upon leaving the theater, it didn't take long for my opinion on it to sully.
Now, I've always been a huge fan of religious horror. It doesn't really get much better than holy iconography splattered with blood and, despite my own lack of faith, I can't get enough of seeing the ultimate battle between good and evil play out on screen. My favourite thing about them, mind, is how they're typically about regular people somehow overcoming powerful entities using only their wit, wiles and wisdom – or not, I'm partial to a bleak outcome, too; think Saint Maud, The Wicker Man and Hereditary. Typically, though, justice prevails and it's in large part to the protagonists' unwavering belief. I may not share the same conviction or creed, but it's galvanizing and inspiring to watch – so it's disappointing that The Nun 2 dilutes that by giving Irene superpowers.
It's extra gutting, too, because of how it undercuts one of the movie's most touching, human scenes. During their train ride from Italy to Tarascon, France, Debra (The Last of Us star Storm Reid) voices her uncertainty over her dedication to God and mocks members of their church congregation for lapping up wine they think is the blood of Christ. "The most extraordinary parts of our faith become real because we believe in them," Irene confidently replies. "I just hope you can find your faith when the time comes." As we know, the twosome wind up praying so hard wine actually does turn into blood at the end of the flick but let's face it, it has nothing to do with Debra; that's all done by miracle-making Irene and her magic eyes.
While The Nun 2 certainly makes things more explicit, Irene is hardly the first character in the Conjuring Universe who has been referred to as a superhero. "The Conjuring series is 'Superhero movies for Catholics'," once claimed a viewer, while another wrote of the latest Warren-centered chapter: "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It was a great watch but it felt less like a scary movie and more like a superhero movie where there's your protagonist with powers and the antagonist with powers."
"Progressing on from the original Conjuring, real-life con-artists Ed and Lorraine Warren have been promoted up to superhero status. Whenever a poltergeist pops up, they are assembled and jetted across the globe like Church-sanctioned Avengers," someone else tweeted about The Conjuring 2, the installment which Valak first appeared in ironically, upon watching it for the first time in 2021. Even more ironic when you think about how The Conjuring 2 is largely about Lorraine trying to keep a premonition she has of Ed dying from coming true...
That's the issue, isn't it? There's nothing wrong with superheroes, of course, but they can make for an awkward fit into scary movies, which establish their high stakes on whether or not the characters are going to make it to the end credits. (Supervillains typically work better if you're combining genres; Brightburn and to some extent, The Boys). Horror protagonists shouldn't be invincible.
Franchises already complicate this – look at Scream's final girl Sidney Prescott, or Halloween's Laurie Strode – when it's obvious studios want to keep fan favorites around for profitable sequels, but Lorraine (Vera Farmiga), Ed (Patrick Wilson), and Irene have some of the thickest plot armor I've ever seen. If you know, without a doubt, they're going to survive, and survive easily too, then where's the thrill?
In the montage sequence that unveils Irene's heritage in The Nun 2, director Michael Chaves briefly holds on a shot of Saint Lucy's eyes, before flashing to Irene's mother's eyes, Irene's and lastly, Lorraine's. With The Conjuring 4, rumored to be subtitled The Last Rites, on the way, might this be an introduction to an even more otherworldly Lorraine? For the love of God, I hope not.
The Nun 2 is in cinemas now. For more, check out our list of all the upcoming horror movies heading our way in 2023 and beyond.