WARNING: Major spoilers for The Nun ahead.
The Nun‘s ending is the most shocking in The Conjuring franchise, surprisingly retconning the original movie to reveal a dark, long-standing connection. It’s become a tradition for Conjuring spinoffs to tie directly into previous movies in franchise: Annabelle moved the doll in the direction of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), while prequel Annabelle: Creation led directly into the first movie’s opening scene. But The Nun goes one better, trying directly into The Conjuring parent franchise and making Valak the true big bad.
The malevolent, demonic force known as Valak was first introduced in The Conjuring 2, seen most commonly on Earth in the form of a ghostly Nun. In James Wan’s 2016 sequel, she plotted to both kill Ed Warren as a means to pacify the psychic Lorraine and possess a teenage girl as part of the real-life Enfield haunting. Fortunately, the Warrens discovered the plot and by finally speaking its name, Lorraine was able to banish Valak to hell. Annabelle: Creation went on to establish that the Nun was previously from a monastery in Romania, with a post-credits scene teasing her full spinoff.
The Nun explores where Valak and its ghostly form came from. Corin Hardy’s film follows Father Burke and Sister Irene, two envoys of the Vatican investigating the suicide of a nun in Romania. It quickly becomes apparent that something mysterious is going on in the monastery and the duo investigate. Of course, audiences know exactly what’s going on from their previous experiences with Valak. What even die-hard Conjuring fans may not expect, however, is where The Nun‘s ending takes us.
VALAK’S ORIGIN & THE NUN DISGUISE EXPLAINED
All The Conjuring 2 really revealed about Valak was that it was a demon for hell whose full name – Valak, the Defiler, the Profane, the Marquis of Snakes – would banish it. This left The Nun with a lot of free room to explain its origins and motives – and it doesn’t disappoint.
As revealed by Sister Oana (or, rather, a ghost of her recreated by Valak), in the Dark Ages, a Duke of St Cartha attempted to use the monastery to open a gateway to hell and unleash unspeakable evil on the Earth. That evil was Valak, who almost broke through before the Catholic Church killed the Duke and sealed the portal using the actual blood of Christ (using something akin to the Holy Grail).
During this sequence of The Nun, we get another glimpse of Valak’s true form after a flash in The Conjuring 2, also shown in books researched by Father Burke – it’s a black demon figure, not dissimilar to the demon from the Annabelle series. Of course, that’s not its known form: Valak adopts the creepier nun in an attempt to blend into the convent. This doesn’t quite explain why it keeps that look when venturing further out into the world, although one explanation is that the fear it conjures is worth the illogicies: we know from The Conjuring 2 that creatures prey on fears.
Valak was only released in World War II when bombs damaged the abbey and broke the physical seal holding it back. Since then, the nuns have been praying round the clock to hold the evil back. Eventually, though, their vigil broke, Valak was freed and all the sisters were killed… leading to the events of The Nun.
HOW SISTER IRENE & CO. “DEFEAT” THE NUN
Most of The Nun‘s plot involves Burke and Irene (with assistance from French-Canadian Frenchie) investigating the monastery to discover what’s happened. Eventually, they discover the truth: despite finding a semi-active convent, the place is deserted, with only Valak there to play with them. They also deduce the demon is looking for a new host, so while the mission of confirming what’s happened for the church is done, they set about defeating the Nun once and for all.
The method is rather simple, with The Nun‘s third act mainly a series of short horror set pieces rather than an intricate scheme: Irene gets the vial of Christ’s blood by using her divinely ordained premonitions and after a tussle with Valak spits blood on the creature (a callback to the villagers’ distaste for the creature), seemingly banishing it. However, this is a Conjuring film, and the other side is never that simple.
HOW THE NUN POSSESSED FRENCHIE
Once Valak is defeated, the trio bury the sisters in the once-again-holy land surrounding the monastery. However, as they leave the camera reveals that Frenchie – real name Maurice, now planning to go be a tomato farmer – has an upside down cross on the back of his neck: Valak survived, taking him as a new host to finally free itself from the confines of the Romanian monastery for the first time!
While this twist is surprising somewhat – we last saw him saving Irene and getting bashful over doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation – it actually makes total sense in what The Nunhas shown us. Irene is captured in a pentagram and taken by Valak. She’s freed when Maurice splashes blood on her, with the spirit going for the French-Canadian and locking the nun out. What follows isn’t shown – Valak emerges, followed later by Frenchie – but evidently, around this point, he was possessed. It seems that he was taken straight away, explaining why Valak toys with Irene – it’s having fun killing her, knowing the primary goal is already achieved – and meaning the blood spit was superfluous (although we already know from The Conjuring 2 that Valak’s real weakness is hearing its name).
Afterward, we don’t see what happens to Burke and Irene, although the resolution of their character arcs sees their faith rewarded. Unless Taissa Farmiga’s casting in The Conjuring series has some greater connection to real life sister Vera, this is probably the last we see of them. The same is not true of Frenchie, who we’ve actually seen before in the franchise.
HOW THE NUN CONNECTS TO THE CONJURING
FRENCHIE (AND THE NUN) WAS IN THE FIRST CONJURING ALL ALONG
The epilogue for The Nun jumps forwards to 1971. We see the Warrens giving their presentation on possession (with soon-to-be-victim Carolyn Perron in attendance), highlighting the subsequent damaged Valak does to Maurice, now identified as a French-Canadian farmer. This is the opening of The Conjuring, the first movie in the franchise from 2013, with some footage re-edited so actor Jonas Bloquet appears as the victim. The film continues, showing him attack Lorraine Warren, giving her a vision of Valak (something previously seen only in flashbacks).
This scene ostensibly ties the entire Nun/Conjuring franchise together, taking it from the Romanian abbey to the Warrens and starting them on the path towards The Conjuring 2. They first came into contact with Valak here, with Maurice’ attack giving Lorraine the first of several visions foreshadowing Ed’s death. The demon remained a minor presence in their lives – at the time of the presentation they are non-the-wise of its true history – until the 1976-set events of The Conjuring 2, when it again showed Lorraine a leading premonition.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT TO THE NUN?
Of course, we already know where Valak ends up – after targeting a family in Enfield, London, Lorraine succeeds in casting the demon back to hell, this time presumably without any connection to Earth. However, with The Nun now meaning Valak bookends the franchise, it wouldn’t be out of the question for the series to extend, having it return in a bit to make it the ultimate foe.
What would seem likely is a The Nun 2. The film is currently set for a strong opening weekend that will easily recoup its $22 million budget, showing a clear interest in the figure and suggesting a hunger for more. And while it may seem like most key events are now tied up by other films, there are several gaps in the Nun’s timeline that could play host to more spooky happenings.
There’s a period between World War II and 1952 when Valak haunted the nuns, something that we got a fair taste of here but could be explored in a further prequel a la 2011’s The Thing, then there are the misadventures of Maurice before he meets the Warrens and where Valak stalks before circling in on Lorraine at Amytiville (the opening of The Conjuring 2). Finally, while it wouldn’t use the now-iconic Nun visage, a film going all the way back to the Duke trying to summon Valak may be the most interesting development, hinting at long past evils (although that may be a little out of The Conjuring‘s typically 20th Century remit).
WHERE THE CONJURING SERIES IS GOING NEXT
Outside of Valak, The Conjuring universe has a very bright future. Next year sees the release of Annabelle 3, a third entry directed by prior scribe Gary Dauberman that will fill in a gap in the haunted doll’s history: her time after the events of Annabelle and The Conjuring when she ended up in the possession of the Warrens. The film will be a Night at the Museum-style adventure set in the couple’s collection of paranormal artifacts, no doubt highlighting a string of new potential franchises. As this comes in the timeline around the same time as The Nun‘s epilogue, a further appearance from Valak isn’t out of the question either.
Next up is The Conjuring 3, likely in 2020, which will continue the trials of the Warrens directly. Little is known about the plot, but it has been said to deviate from the previous films by not being a haunted house story, widening the potential real-life cases to dramatize. Also in the works is The Crooked Man, a spinoff of the creature from The Conjuring 2 that again has ties to Valak.
The Nun may be the earliest-set prequel in The Conjuring franchise, but it’s also one with some major importance for the future. Beware Valak.