Just like Annabelle was the surprise scene-stealer of James Wan's The Conjuring (released in 2013), the demon nun Valak (played by Bonnie Aarons) was the surprise standout in The Conjuring 2 (released in 2016). As such, Valak is the second character from the expanding fictional universe to get her own feature film with The Nun arriving in US theaters on September 7th. Aarons is reprising the role she commanded and made iconic; she stars alongside Demian Bichir (The Hateful Eight, Alien: Covenant) as priest Father Burke and Taissa Farmiga (The Final Girls, American Horror Story) as novitiate Sister Irene. We've just gotten another "First Look" (courtesy of Entertainment Weekly) of a confrontation between Valak and Sister Irene-and it's bone-chilling! In The Nun:

"When a young nun at a cloistered abbey in Romania takes her own life, a priest with a haunted past and a novitiate on the threshold of her final vows are sent by the Vatican to investigate. Together, they uncover the order's unholy secret. Risking not only their lives but their faith and their very souls, they confront a malevolent force in the form of a demonic nun."

Taissa Farmiga gave additional insights into the film by describing her character: "[Sister Irene] had a difficult and isolating childhood. She experienced these visions that set her apart from her peers and eventually led her to a life in the church." Her upcoming appearance in The Nun coincides with the announcement that she's returning to American Horror Story for the upcoming 8th season, Apocalypse, a crossover of Season 1 (Murder House) and Season 3 (Coven). Though the actress played significant roles in both seasons, a recent comment she made on Twitter about "dusting off" her witch's hat has us fairly certain she'll be reprising the character Zoe Benson from Coven. It's also worth noting that Farmiga is the sister of Vera Farmiga, who plays Loraine Warren in "The Conjuring" movies.

The Nun was filmed in an actual castle in Romania, where the film's supernatural themes amplified the setting's already-creepy ambiance. In fact, at San Diego Comic-Con last month director Corin Hardy gave a nerve-shredding account of a potentially real paranormal encounter he had during production:

"We were shooting in a real Romanian fortress... it was used to store weapons... like an old bunker. Everyone was a bit unnerved by it. Pitch dark tunnels you could get lost in. So when we shot this sequence... it was called the corridor of crosses, and it was a two hundred foot long corridor... deep, dark, dank. Where I was situated, I had to be out of camera shot, so I was in one of these cells... literally a door from the corridor into a pitch-black room. I see these two guys from the crew, probably sound department, just sort of sitting back a little further in the dark. I said hi. I was focused on the film. I turned my back and sat with my back to these two guys. And I was watching the monitors. Half an hour later... I finally got the shot... I got up and turned to the two men and said, 'Did you see that?' And I turned around and... there was just no one in the room. And there hadn't been anyone in there at all. There's nowhere they could've come out of. I saw them on the way in. I just felt that they were there the whole time. I can only assume that they were probably like Romanian soldiers.... watching over the filming of The Nun."

In addition to being another tent-pole in The Conjuring franchise, The Nun will also find company within the obscure nunsploitation subgenre of horror. Most popular in western Europe, nunsploitation juxtaposes Christian themes and imagery against salacious tales of sin and subversion. The subgenre peaked in the 1970 with the controversial The Devils, directed by Ken Russell, often considered a paradigm. Look for The Nun to haunt US theaters beginning September 7th, and thanks to Entertainment Weekly for this latest sneak peek.