Films set in the Conjuring universe have tended to trade in supernatural suspense rather than gore and violence. Filmmaker James Wan's franchise-inaugurating 2013 movie terrified audiences — and earned $319 million around the world — without featuring any "kills" at all. But when director Michael Chaves test-screened the latest Conjuring film The Nun II (in theaters this weekend), he realized that a little more mayhem was required.
"People wanted more violence," Chaves says, with a laugh. "There was already a good degree of violence and gore in the movie, but people wanted more of it. So, we did a little bit of additional photography and we ramped that up. It just goes to show how audiences are always changing, evolving. Even in the earliest version, it was more [violent] than what was in your traditional Conjuring movie. I think horror audiences have been on this journey, this horror renaissance, where they've seen a lot of horror movies, they've seen a lot of violence. It's something they wanted more of and we gladly gave it."
Warner Bros. Pictures Taissa Farmiga in 'The Nun II'
The Nun II stars Taissa Farmiga and Jonas Blouquet, reprising their respective roles of Sister Irene and Maurice from 2018's Corin Hardy-directed The Nun, its $365 million worldwide gross making it the most successful Conjuring movie thus far. In that 1952-set film, the pair faced off against Bonnie Aarons' terrifying Demon Nun, an earthy representation of the demon Valak, at a remote monastery in Romania. Although Irene and Maurice survived the events of the film, the latter wound up possessed by the spirit of Aarons' Nun.
In The Nun II, which is set four years after the first movie, Irene and Storm Reid's novitiate Sister Debra look into the death-by-fire of a priest, an investigation which leads them to Maurice. As Chaves explains, the film "follows the two stories of Irene, as she's trying to track down Maurice, and Maurice, who's now settled down, [is] this unwitting host to the Nun, and working in this boarding school in France. It's these parallel stories as they build and collide together."
Warner Bros. Pictures 'The Nun II'
The script for the The Nun II originally came from horror screenwriter du jour Akela Cooper, whose previous credits include 2021's Wan-directed Malignant and last year's M3GAN. It was the quality of Cooper's work that encouraged Chaves to stick with the franchise after directing 2019's Conjuring universe-adjacent The Curse of La Llorona and 2021's The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.
"The studio and James [Wan] had explored a couple of different sequel ideas — I won't say what those were, in case those ideas end up coming back in another shape — but the draft that I got was of this new idea and this new take, and she did a fantastic job," the director says of Cooper. "I was at first a little hesitant to join in on another Conjuring movie. [The script] was one of the key things that really drew me back in, and even though we did develop it, and Akela wasn't available to do all of the rewrites, a lot of those core ideas stayed through to the finished movie."
Chaves shot The Nun II in France last year, working with on-the-ground producer Peter Safran — at least until Safran departed to head up DC's film, TV, and animation division with James Gunn. Asked to recall the most memorable moment of the shoot, Chaves names the day on which he shot the scene where Irene and Maurice finally unite, a sequence everyone was "really kind of dreading," the filmmaker says.
Warner Bros. Pictures 'The Nun II'
"We were all wrestling with how to do this," he continues. "We knew that it was going to be supercharged, and it becomes even more supercharged because it doesn't happen earlier in the film. I'm so proud of Taissa and Jonas for how they delivered that scene. I think it blows anything that they did before out of the water."
Chaves has now essentially spent half a decade making films in the Conjuring universe. Do the franchise's characters ever turn up in his nightmares?
"My Conjuring nightmares usually center around the logistics of work and schedule," he says. "Even with a great schedule and an amazing crew, it still seems like you never quite have enough time and my dreams usually center around that."
So, you're standing in front of 100 Demon Nuns desperately racing to rewrite a scene?
"That's definitely one of them!" he says.
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