The Driving Force of the Conjuring Franchise Isn’t Who You Think

The Big Picture

  • Valak, played by Bonnie Aarons, has become a horror icon in the Conjuring franchise due to her chilling presence and piercing stare.
  • Aarons’ performance as Valak is characterized by her ability to convey evil through minimal words and movements, making her just as scary as other horror movie villains.
  • Aarons has been a horror icon before her role as Valak, with notable appearances in other horror films, showcasing her unique look and talent for embodying sinister characters.

Horror icons have a way of transcending the very genre they exist within. You can hate horror movies and still be able to pick a Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees mask out of a line-up. Who hasn’t heard of Dracula or Norman Bates? In recent years, new slashers and villains have emerged from the darkest corners of their creator’s mind to bring new haunts to horror. They have solidified their presence in the genre as they keep us suspiciously checking every dark spot in our rooms or sleeping with a nightlight. Oh, you want me to take these stairs to the basement? Forget it; I watch horror movies, I’m not going down there! However, one monster stands head and shoulders above some of these other newbies. That monster is Valak and actress Bonnie Aarons is leading the charge for the Conjuring franchise’s growth.

Valak is the chilling entity haunting the corners of our rooms when the lights are out and infiltrating our darkest nightmares. Played by Bonnie Aarons, Valak is the nun in The Conjuring 2 and The Nun I and II, with a cameo appearance in Annabelle: Creation, and she has the most sinister and piercing stare of any horror movie villain I’ve ever seen. The first time we encounter Valak is in The Conjuring II, as she is haunting a family in London. Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are sent there to rid the house of its demonic clutches, and they come face-to-face with the evil nun multiple times. The Nun I and II take place about 20 years before The Conjuring II and serve as a prequel to the franchise. Without Bonnie Aarons and Valak, the Conjuring franchise might not have been able to expand to what it is today.

Bonnie Aarons Has Created a Horror Icon in Valak

Valak in The Nun II
Image via New Line Cinema

Valak being so hauntingly scary is entirely because of Aarons and her ability to just serve the look. The demon has the most soul-penetrating stare, illuminating a yellow glow in the corners of a room just before she pounces on her victim. Before claiming their victims in The Nun II, we see Valak creep its spindly fingers around a door frame or over someone’s shoulder with a smirk that epitomizes evil. The concept of a demonic nun is creepy in any right, but Aarons as the nun is what pulls the whole concept together. Even though Valak utters virtually no words, Aarons’s performance is just as scary as any other slasher or monster on screen. One of my favorite scenes from The Nun II is at the very beginning.

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The scene starts with a young boy and a Father when they discover something isn’t right in the church. They see the holy water boiling and eventually evaporating, and then they notice the sinister shadow that is Valak. In a moment when she could’ve screamed or jumped out at us to elicit fear, she simply smirks. That smirk gives the epitome of evil in about two seconds before she levitates the father and sets him on fire. There is nothing else needed in the scene other than Aarons’s subtle smile. It can be difficult to really sell demonic without any words or much movement at all, but Aarons has such excellent control of her emotions and facial expressions and that shines through in The Nun II. In the scenes where she does snarl or scream, like when she becomes larger than life in the wine cellar and tries to set Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) on fire, her timing of delivering a blood-curdling bellow is impeccable. Just like her facial expressions are always on cue, her physicality hits the mark every single time. The Nun II shows Valak on screen a lot more than in previous films, but it never feels less scary or cheapened because of her commanding presence. She operates on cue every time.

Bonnie Aarons Was a Horror Icon Before the Conjuring Movies

Bonnie Aarons in Mulholland Drive
Image Via Universal Pictures

Many of you may just now be learning about Aarons, but she has been a horror icon for quite some time. One of her most notable roles is as a bum in Mulholland Drive, a David Lynch classic. She also had roles in I Know Who Killed Me, Drag Me To Hell, Dahmer vs. Gacy, I Live Alone, and Jakob’s Wife. Outside of horror, she can be seen in Shallow Hal and The Princess Diaries. Mulholland Drive isn’t even technically a horror movie, but her scene in that film has made it onto so many lists of jump scares and scary scenes. Her makeup and look as the bum is an iconic photo in itself. Aarons has a distinct look and is incredibly recognizable anywhere she goes. Without the cloaked habit and white and black face paint, Aarons has an elegant and flowing beauty that stands out in a sea of commonality. She has a very old Hollywood look to her and glides effortlessly in roles.

Her uniqueness combined with unconventional and regal beauty shines through as the nun. Even with the glowing yellow eyes and the blood-covered teeth, you can’t help but stare and take it all in when she is on-screen. The Nun and playing the role of Valak will be her defining moment, but she has never been a flash in the pan. The horror community is always so desperately looking for a sinister face to put on a sticker, bag, or piece of wall art, and a giant poster of Valak is the thing that we all desperately need! Imagine, putting that in your entryway as guests enter your home. If you’re an introvert, you might be delighted at how well that deters guests from wanting to spend time in your place of solitude. Think about it!

Bonnie Aarons’s Dedication to Her Roles Brings the Nun to Life

Image via Warner Bros.

Michael Chaves, director of The Nun II, had quite a lot of positive feedback to give on Aarons during their time filming. Chaves told People that she has a great scary energy on set and that she is truly chilling when she gets in costume and makeup. He also notes that a lot of the cast was slightly scared of her because of the energy she brings on set. Despite all that evil energy she channels to become Valak, she is noted to be the exact opposite out of character. Many actors and actresses tend to go method for their roles, but Bonnie can seamlessly break character from the Nun.

From all reports, she is an absolute professional to work with and cares about her work. Recently, she has been seen in solidarity with the WGA strike and participating in the picketing. She is also actively suing Warner Bros. for not being properly compensated for the profits being brought in for using her likeness as Valak on merchandise. Aarons told We Got This Covered that she digs deep to find her characters, and it’s that dedication that allows Valak/The Nun to become a cultural icon in horror. It’s easy to blast on some makeup and special effects, but selling the character is tricky. Aarons can sell and she sells it out!

The Nun II is in theaters now, and the second installment to Valak’s haunting story is worth the trip to your local theater. Fans are speculating quite a bit on how The Nun I and II will tie into The Conjuring storyline, and there are plenty of plausible connections. One thing we know for sure is that Bonnie Aarons IS The Nun and her performance will continue to propel The Conjuring franchise to new heights.

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