Since her breakout role in HBO’s Euphoria Sydney Sweeney has been climbing the Hollywood social ladder in recent years. She’s been quite a bankable actress for the Hollywood filler releases in the off months. Anyone but You (2023) was critically panned but killed at the box office, Madame Webb (2024) was um… a thing that happened and with her role in the espionage drama Reality (2023) it makes sense the next genre for her to mark off the list is Horror. Enter Immaculate, Michael Mohan’s Italy set horror with Sweeney taking the lead as an American nun arriving at a hospice convent only to suddenly find out she’s with child, a presumed Immaculate Conception. This apparent fulfillment of a Prophecy is taken as a miracle but there’s deceit and danger afoot, as usual.  

The plot of the film is pure B movie. If you described it to me in passing, I’d have guessed it to star Vincent Price in the double feature with The Masque of the Red Death (1964). Evil scientists, secret Jesus’ cults and devilish Priests all fill the runtime with a progressing goofy storyline that really shouldn’t work on paper but turns out to be shockingly entertaining. Don’t get me wrong there’s moments of shlock and imbalance sprinkled throughout the film that almost derails it (the opening epilogue is pointless and adds nothing except some unwanted story context). Plot holes aside the themes of bodily exploitation and religious policing isn’t as front and center as it should.  

The film knows it’s a bit over the top too, Sweeney herself winks to the audience a couple of times as it goes on. It’s well composed visually; the cinematography harks back to the cultish horrors of the 60’s and 70’s with gliding tracking shots in moments of calm contrasted with the shift to diagonal close ups in moments of tension. The filmmakers have a good eye, the lighting is competent with the visuals really peaking in the third act with  climax that’s impressively edited and paced. The special effects a reasonably good too with some believable  practical’s, the film doesn’t lean on CGI. One scene featuring someone’s tongue getting a haircut reminded me of Pasolini’s Salo which in any other context would be traumatizing but here works.  

In fact, the visuals are so competent it’s totally at odds with the substance of the story. This contrast honestly doesn’t work for the film, one foot is in a well-crafted tense horror film whilst the other is one jump-scare from a Conjuring movie. Speaking of jump scares, Immaculate handles them well. There’s substance behind them and they hit more than they miss. Sweeney can hold her own as a Scream Queen (quite literally she ends the movie screaming at the audience), even if the rest of the cast falls short. I quite enjoyed Immaculate, yes it doesn’t live up to its title with the sloppy story and characters but there’s genuine scares here handled with a skill that’s a rarity in the genre these days. 

Rating: 3/5

  • Directed by: Michael Mohan
  • Written by: Andrew Lobel
  • Starring: Sydney Sweeney
  • Runtime: 1hr 29 min
  • Released: March 22, 2024

Review by Marcus Rochford.

Immaculate Trailer

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