Immaculate | Review by: Amanda Guarragi

 There are films in the religious horror subgenre that have trouble being unique because of the conventions that are used. A film can never be too “tropey” especially in horror. It’s those very tropes that make us enjoy many others. Immaculate, directed by Michael Mohan, does follow similar beats for the subgenre, but the story is what subverts expectations to make it thrilling. First and foremost, it must be addressed that this film takes place in the Italian countryside in a Roman Catholic convent. This is what sets it apart from other religious horror films. There is something incredibly authentic about this location, and the setting is amplified by the stunning cinematography by Elisha Christian. The atmosphere plays a massive part when drawing the audience in for the scares. Whether the “jump scares” are cheap, there’s so much more to this film than a door creaking or a bird hitting the window. The story keeps you engaged because of how twisted each scene becomes when navigating Sister Cecelia’s (Sydney Sweeney) journey of her higher calling. 

For Sister Cecelia, becoming a nun is what she believed she was meant for. There’s a reason she ended up at this Italian convent and not one in the United States. She travelled far and even attempted to learn the language to be the best possible nun. Once she arrives at the convent, her purity and soft-spoken nature are a sight for so many nuns. She familiarizes herself with the ways of the convent and notices early on that something isn’t right with the others. Mohan made the surrounding nuns look unhinged because of their weird tendencies. Something sinister was brewing beneath the surface, and the more confused Sister Cecelia became, the more twisted the story became. The grey area in religious horror is the need to fulfill a destiny. Many who believe in a higher being do not question what is meant for them because they trust their path. Father Sal Tedeschi (Alvaro Morte) is the one who personally brought Sister Cecelia over to this convent. As the story unfolds, we see that Father Tedeschi has motives of his own and has taken over women’s bodies to fulfill his calling. 

The film addresses women’s autonomy over their bodies and how their rights have been taken away because of men (or other people). At times, Immaculate is difficult to watch, especially as a woman and Sweeney’s performance as Sister Cecelia is her best yet. What Sweeney does in the last half hour of this film will make her one of the best “final girls” in horror. The descent into the catacombs underneath the convent is a thrilling sequence because of the tension of her breaking free from Father Tedeschi. The use of lighting and shadows with complete silence filling the screen adds to the anticipation of knowing whether or not she will escape. Writer Andrew Lobel layers this story to open a conversation about faith and reproductive rights. It may not seem like that at the surface because it is masked by a suspenseful film filled with blood and graphic moments. The ending scene will be the most discussed scene of the year because of the implications of it. There have been religious horrors that have pushed the boundaries over the years for sure, but many haven’t seen anything like this ending. It is very controversial, but it was an effective way to end the film. 

Immaculate does follow similar tropes for the religious horror subgenre. The combination of Sydney Sweeney’s performance and well-written script is enough to give audiences an appreciation for an ambitious story. Once the twist comes to light, the film moves swiftly, and it becomes chaotic for Sister Cecelia. Everything that happens to her in the second half of this film continuously gets more sadistic, and it feels like you are trapped in this convent with her. Additionally, the score by Will Bates perfectly suits the atmosphere that Christian and Mohan created. It wouldn’t have been as effective without the subtle operatic tones of the score creeping in occasionally. Again, Mohan and Lobel brought this religious horror to the root of the Roman Catholic Church, and the authenticity of the ancient scriptures was evident throughout every aspect of this film. The film does take a bit to find its footing at the beginning, but once it gets into the meat of the story, it makes for a compelling fever dream that will take you on a wild journey with Sydney Sweeney. 


Review by: Amanda Guarragi 

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