There are enough eerie scares in “The Nun II” to make them a habit

There’s just no substitute for ambience, the gloomy doors, and the lengthy, dark halls that come with ancient European buildings in the 1950s, when it comes to horror. Enter “The Nun II” a stylish yet recognizable expansion of the incredibly rich “Conjuring” universe that. By skillfully building on the 2018 success, seems set to become yet another cinematic habit.

“The Nun II”

The majority of the action takes place around a French boarding school where the demon nun Valak (Bonnie Aarons reprises her glowering role) has reemerged. The events of the sequel are set four years after the events of the original, which introduced demon-fighting nun Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) and the handy Maurice (Jonas Bloquet).

Sister Irene unwillingly accepts the task after the shocking pre opening title death of a priest informs the Vatican that the evil she had previously prevented has reemerged (evil does that when box office success demands it). Storm Reid, who has been in “Euphoria” and “Missing,” unexpectedly joins her as a brazen young nun who ends up being a determined but somewhat underutilized sidekick.

The Nun II” sticks to the formula, which heavily relies on jump-out-at-you scares, vivid nightmares, and eerie spectral visions. It is direct by Michael Chaves, a veteran of these films with “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” and “The Curse of La Llorona,” among others.

These films typically don’t hold together particularly well down the stretch, when the mayhem starts in earnest, despite the script going through some late contortions to give Irene a credible way of fighting back. But at that time, they’ve already provided the necessary thrills, so they don’t really need to.

These films demon both horror’s enduring power relative to other theatrical genres and how expanding the palette in terms of geography and chronology can add a sprinkle of freshness to basic haunted house constructions, with a plot that easily could have featured Vincent Price in decades past. Vera Farmiga is a mainstay of “The Conjuring” series.

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