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  • Lily Warden

“Immaculate” Movie Review: Frightening or Feeble?

By: Lily Warden 

Director Michael Mohan’s “Immaculate” hit theaters last month, highlighting Sydney Sweeney as the latest big screen scream queen. “Immaculate” is a religious horror film that uses Catholicism as a background to create a dark and sinister story.  

“Immaculate” movie poster, credit: IMDb

The film follows Cecilia, a young American nun who turned to religion after an almost fatal accident. Since then, Cecilia has devoted her life to religion as she felt God had a purpose for saving her. The film opens as Cecilia is invited to Italy to work for a convent that tends to dying nuns on hospice. After her arrival, she confides in Father Sal Tedeschi (Alvaro Morte, “Money Heist” and “Mirage”) about her accident and why she felt called to answer his invitation to work at the convent. She settles into her life at the convent, learning how to take care of the nuns and befriending Sister Gwen (Benedetta Porcaroli, “Amanda” and “Tutte le mie notti”). Strange things start to happen at the convent, but Cecilia chalks it up to her minimal understanding of Italian and the culture at the convent. A few weeks after her arrival, Cecilia finds that she is pregnant even though she had remained celibate due to her vows. The rest of the film follows Cecilia through her pregnancy and reveals the horrors within the convent. 

Credit: Yahoo

Despite being marketed as a religious horror film, “Immaculate” falls more into the category of psychological horror with religion as a backdrop. The film creates a suspenseful and tense environment instead of striking fear in the viewers’ hearts with scary imagery.  A sequence in the third act of the film finds Cecilia wandering the catacombs under the convent with nothing but a flashlight to guide her. As she gets deeper underground, her flashlight starts to flicker and die. The eeriness of the scene, going from light to dark, creates an extraordinarily tense environment.  Despite the film having a lack of jump scares, “Immaculate” makes effective use of gore to create an unsettling environment throughout the film. The suspenseful tone can be viewed as a refreshing change of pace for viewers tired of cheap jump scares, or a disappointing letdown to horror fans expecting to jump out of their seats every scene. 


Overall, the film unsettles viewers, but does not leave an impression on audiences. With a runtime of 89 minutes, the plot twist at the end is crammed into the final third act of the film, leaving the audience with questions once the story is over. There is nothing wrong with a film leaving some plot elements ambiguous, but there were too many unanswered questions in “Immaculate”. At times, it felt the film simply forgot about characters or plot lines as the film wrapped up. By the time the third act started, it felt like the film was racing against time to finish telling a story, resulting in a rushed, unsatisfying ending.

Credit: CNN

The redeeming feature of “Immaculate” is Sweeney’s performance. Following the success of “Euphoria”, “White Lotus” and “Anyone but You”, Sweeney’s performance in “Immaculate” is a refreshing and very much appreciated reprieve from her usual roles. Since her breakout role in “Euphoria”, Sweeney is typically cast as a bombshell blonde, oversexualized female lead. In “Immaculate”, the story material allows Sweeney to break free from playing a pretty face with no substance.  Sweeney plays the sweet, innocent Cecilia well in the beginning of the film, and plays the desperate woman who will do anything to break free from the convent even better. Throughout the film, audiences will have the privilege of experiencing the full range of Sweeney’s acting abilities as Cecilia. Sweeney’s performance in the last scene of the film elevates Cecilia's character to new heights and proves to audiences Sweeney belongs in the horror genre.  


In addition to Sweeney’s performance, the locations within the film looked fantastic. “Immaculate” was almost entirely shot in Rome and the film utilized real churches and catacombs. The sinister feel of the film is accentuated by this choice. The real-life church adds a sense of realism to the film, making audiences feel like they are stuck in the Italian countryside with Cecilia. 


Overall, “Immaculate” is a refreshing film in Sweeney’s filmography that uses the setting of the Catholic church moderately well to tell its story. Though Sweeney’s acting makes “Immaculate” watchable, the loose plot lines and unanswered questions fail to make an impression with audiences. With a longer run time, the film could answer questions and delved deeper into the third act plot twist. If you are a fan of drama and do not mind gore, it would be worth watching Sweeney’s performance. If not, this is a film that can wait to be seen until it hits streaming services at home. 


Summary: “Immaculate” hit theaters last month, showing Sydney Sweeney’s ability to thrive in the horror genre. Though Sweeney’s performance was spectacular, it was not enough to save the film from poor storytelling and rushed plotlines. Overall, the film achieves what it sets out to do, but fails to have a lasting impact on audiences. 





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