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FILM REVIEW: Immaculate (2024)

Immaculate - New Release Review


Director: Michael Mohan

Starring: Sydney Sweeney, Álvaro Morte, Simone Tabasco, Benedetta Porcaroli, Dora Romano


Written by: Andrew Lobel

Produced by: Sydney Sweeney, Jonathan Davino, David Bernad, Michael Heimler, Teddy Schwarzman

Cinematography by: Elisha Christian

Original Score by: Will Bates


Synopsis:

Cecilia, a woman of devout faith, is warmly welcomed to the picture-perfect Italian countryside where she is offered a new role at an illustrious convent. But it becomes clear to Cecilia that her new home harbors dark and horrifying secrets.


Immaculate Film Review

Thoughts:

Scream queens come in all shapes and sizes. From teenage babysitters on the run from knife wielding maniacs to students battling reanimated corpses in a morgue, they are a staple of the horror genre. Their influence is so broad that they cross subgenres like slashers, creature features and all things related to the supernatural. With 'Immaculate' the scream queen in question is Sister Cecilia (Sydney Sweeney) who after making her vows in a seemingly idyllic convent in a remote part of Italy, is exposed to its dark secrets. 



Early in the film Sister Cecilia discovers that she is pregnant despite being a virgin and this discovery splits opinion in the convent as some see it as a miracle, while a small minority are suspicious of it creating tension and a sense of mystery to what is happening behind closed doors at the convent. This predicament at the heart of the film lays out the central theme of the film, female autonomy in the face of fundamentalism, which is handled quite well throughout before being pushed into overdrive towards the end. The finale elevates it above lesser films which have nothing to say especially when this has been an issue in the Western world in recent times (particularly in America). 


Sydney Sweeney as Sister Cecilia in Immaculate

In touching upon these themes it is also very reverential to other religious based horror films such 'Rosemary's Baby' in terms of the mystery behind Sister Cecilia's pregnancy and 'The Omen' whose shadow hangs over the entire film before becoming more prominent after the big reveal in the third act. The reveal itself may come as no surprise but it is the slow burn approach with the gradual reveal of things like the cross shaped scars on the feet and the nuns with red hooded faces that adds intrigue throughout. 



With the setting, director Michael Mohan really plays with elements of Giallo based horror featuring common traits of the subgenre, particularly in the nightmare sequence early in the film with its use of colour and close ups. There is even a montage sequence that features music from The Red Queen Kills Seven Times that stands out next to Will Bates atmospheric score. It is a small touch that stylistically elevates it above the bog standard trappings of cookie cutter popcorn horror like 'The Nun'. The production design is great too as the convent is a sinister prison for those who inhabit it. Featuring labyrinths of dark hallways and secret passages, it instils an inescapable sense of claustrophobia which is utilised to the fullest thanks to some beautifully realised shot compositions that keep you searching for something that may or may not be lurking in the shadows. 


The film has been a passion project of Sydney Sweeney (who also produces) for years and this passion is clear to see on the screen. There has been some criticism over her acting ability in relation to her current place in pop culture but make no mistake, she is terrific here. When we first meet her character there is a sweetness and almost wide-eyed optimism to her about the life she is about to lead. As the story unveils itself to her the gradual manner in which that hopefulness is stripped away from her makes her utterly engaging. For an actress who has really risen to prominence in the last year for so, 'Immaculate' might just be her best performance to date. 


In terms of the supporting cast, Álvaro Morte (as Father Sal Tedeschi) and Dora Romano (as the Mother Superior) catch the eye through the selfish malevolence that bubbles under their superficial kindness. This makes them stand out anytime they are on screen. Benedetta 

Porcaroli also stands out as Sister Gwen, a fellow nun who befriends Sister Cecilia. It is a small role but one that she seems really invested in as she provides some levity before delving into the more horrific side of the film. 


Sydney Sweeney as Sister Cecilia in Immaculate

Throughout the film, there is plenty of bloody violence and Mohan does not hold back, as faces are ripped off and tongues are cut out but nothing quite prepares you for the finale after the cavalcade of blood-strewn carnage. It is an incredibly powerful scene that will shock and leave a lasting impact in a way that no other horror film probably will the rest of this year thanks to the extraordinary commitment in Sydney Sweeney's performance and the way in which Michael Mohan keeps the focus entirely on her face. 



Whilst 'Immaculate' touches on a lot of elements explored in other ecclesiastical horror films, it is its reverence to them that makes the film worth watching. It makes the most of its location and shifts tones in just the right way in order to make it entertaining and horrifying at the right times in the face of a bonkers reveal. The main takeaway from the film though is how it gives us a performance from Sydney Sweeney which makes her a bonafide scream 

queen. 


Verdict: ⭐️⭐️⭐️½


'Immaculate' is in UK cinemas March 22nd


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