‘Immaculate’ Review: All Hail Sydney Sweeney, Mother of Blood

Peter Paras reviews the effective enough nunsploitation horror flick, Immaculate, starring producer and current "it girl" Sydney Sweeney.
User Rating: 7

NEON’s Immaculate is a nunsploitation vibes feature that relies heavily on two things: The movie star charisma of star/producer/current “it girl” Sydney Sweeney (Anyone But You) and a finale that aims to shock, delight, and disturb in equal measures. Remember all those found footage flicks that broke out after The Blair Witch Project? Films that for most of their run time, “nothing happened,” and then something finally did? Immaculate spares us the shaky cam, but the 2000s spirit of less is more is all up in this habit. Can a slow-burn Italian countryside tale about an American nun-to-be (Sweeney) who clearly should have used Duolingo serve up sacraments for a bloody good time? For the most part, yes.

Ever since she nearly drowned as a child, Sister Cecilia (Sweeney) has felt there must be a purpose to her life. Why did God spare her? The answer, apparently, was so she could fly to Italy from the Midwest to devote herself to the Catholic church full-time. Why this particular sect of the crosses and communion? Who knows, maybe it’s the Suspiria-level weirdness of those wacky, eyeless red masks. Sister Cecilia never would have had such an experience in Fresno, CA.

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At a scant 89 min (including credits), director Michael Mohan (The Voyeurs) knows the drill. There is little dialogue, yet plenty of moments where Cecilia enters a room by candlelight, perhaps seeing something... With the fear of the otherworldly gone by daylight, there’s Father Sal (Álvaro Morte), who learned the wrong lessons from his brief stint as a geneticist. Sister Mary (played by fellow White Lotus alum Simona Tabasco) is a kindred spirit, though, especially compared to the more fanatical sisters of nunsense. All Sister Cecila has to do is keep her head down, right?

Well no. Not once it’s discovered that Celicia is pregnant despite her claims to never having bedded a man. The film’s killer title, Immaculate, has nothing to do with being clean. The blood-soaked last act refutes that in the best ways possible. Dead chickens, deadly hot poker branding, and the occasional grindhouse mayhem abound by the end. If you came for the gore, just relax during the first 45 minutes. The script by Andrew Nobel (PUBG) keeps the threadbare plot moving along, with just the right amount of mystery to make one wonder where exactly that is all going.

As the first film Sweeney produced (she only EP’d Anyone But You) under the Eupohia star’s own production company, Fifty-Fifty Films, Immaculate has a genuinely gusty performance by Sweeney. Okay, it’s not on the level of Mia Goth’s in Pearl, but Sweeney’s ability to “go there” is appreciated. At first, Sweeney’s rather “modern” approach as a performer might seem an odd fit for a pared-down one-location story among the chaste. Yet, as the narrative evolves, the actor’s choices hit the nail on the proverbial… well, you know. My faith in Sweeney as a new star is sound. Amen to that.

What about the big finale? Not for the squeamish, but who would see a nun-centered horror movie from indie disturber NEON not expecting a moment that is arguably horrific, timely, and, dare I say it, kinda funny? Heaven help me, but Immaculate is on the right side of 2024’s views and politics. Haters be damned.

Immaculate opens in select theaters on March 22, 2024.

7
Good
Written by
Peter Paras is pop culture writer who has been reviewing films for the past fifteen years. Raised in Chicago—but an Angeleno since the start of 21st century—he has plenty to say about films, television, videogames, and the occasional YouTube channel. He’s a frequent guest on Out Now with Aaron and Abe, as well as TV Campfire Podcast. His work has been published at Why So Blu, Game Revolution and E! Online. His favorites include: Sunset Blvd, Step Up 2 The Streets, Hackers, Paris Is Burning, both installments of The Last of Us, Destiny 2, and Frasier.

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