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'Immaculate' Review

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March 27, 2024
Tyler Banark
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In recent years, Hollywood has found a knack for releasing random religion-themed horror films that either get overlooked or flop altogether. This was evidenced when I saw Neon’s latest fright fest, Immaculate, and got a trailer for the upcoming 20th Century Studios horror film The First Omen. Director Michael Mohan and screenwriter Andrew Lobel craft a twist on the Rosemary’s Baby narrative with one of the hottest actresses working today, Sydney Sweeney. The movie looked like an intense, bloody horror show from the trailers. Ultimately, it’s a boring film that restrains itself from being the scariest thing to come out of 2024. 

After her parish shuts down in her hometown, American nun Cecilia (Sweeney) is assigned to a convent in rural Italy. As she settles in, she miraculously becomes pregnant and is proclaimed the next Virgin Mary. However, the more her pregnancy progresses, the more Cecilia learns of the convent’s darkest secrets.

Although the synopsis seems too familiar, Immaculate initially appears to have the intention of breaking that formulaic mold through some solid cinematography and the casting of such a modern-day actress in Sweeney. But between Will Bates’ stock score and repetitious cycle of loud jumps scares and gotchas, this just feels like another entry in the already watered-down The Nun franchise.

Sweeney is on a fascinating streak right now as Immaculate comes nearly one month after the disastrous Madame Web, which in turn came out a month and a half after the box office hit Anyone But You. Both of those polar opposites (as well as this project, which she produced) came after years of her presence on HBO with Sharp Objects, The White Lotus, and the controversial drama Euphoria. Her performance here might not break any new ground, but it does check off the box of being a solo leading lady who can sell a project on a concept and her acting abilities. She has a scream near the end where she’s caked in blood that echoes the signature outbursts from Janet Leigh in Psycho and Jenna Ortega in X.

Aside from Sweeney, the cast isn’t very noteworthy, with everyone playing cookie-cutter horror characters. You’ve got the strict mother superior nun, the freaky priest who tries to defuse the situation but doesn’t help, the rebellious friend, and the one nun who thinks she’s better than everyone else. The only one that comes close to breaking out is Benedetta Porcaroli as Sister Gwen, the rebellious nun. When she and Cecilia are talking to each other and making humor out of whatever they’re doing, it’s cute, but it feels forced.

If Immaculate is going to accomplish anything, it’s likely just that it’s a horror movie starring Sydney Sweeney and nothing else. There’s a moment where the nuns have a ceremony for Cecilia after the word of her pregnancy gets out. Cecilia is dressed in a lavish blue and yellow dress with a gold crown and see-through veil, metaphorically spotlighting her as the Virgin Mary. Everyone else is smiling and bowing their heads to her, reflecting how numerous viewers see Sweeney today. Then, in an instance, there’s a close-up of Cecilia shedding a tear, a callback to a certain shot of Sweeney in the second season of Euphoria. Are we as a society beginning to worship her as royalty this fast in her short career? Only time will tell, but I can guarantee people won’t look back at Immaculate as the primary reason for her ascendency.

You can follow Tyler and hear more of his thoughts on Twitter, Instagram, and Letterboxd.

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