Review: 'Immaculate'

By: Heather Seebach

Immaculate very nearly flew under my radar as religious horror is so rarely satisfying these days. Too many bland, jump-scare-riddled creepy nun movies have saturated the genre to where I pay them little mind anymore. Fortunately, murmurs coming out of SXSW told a very different tale. This creepy nun movie packs a nasty, blood-filled bite and just the right amount of nunsploitation sleaze.

Sister Cecilia (Sydney Sweeney) is a young American nun who joins a convent in the Italian countryside. This picturesque parish, however, harbors many dark secrets. When the devoutly chaste Cecilia learns she is with child, her faith is tested by the sinister forces closing in.

Right from Cecilia's arrival in Rome, her inability to speak the language and the uncomfortable leers of men set the uneasy tone for this innocent young girl. The creep factor ramps up from there, with eerie figures in red masks and the looming feeling that nobody ever leaves this place. The film utilizes sound design and pitch blackness effectively for scare factor. It is not without a jump-scare or two but they generally feel earned. 

But the most anxiety-inducing element of the film is Cecilia's unwanted pregnancy, which leaves her at the mercy of the holy men who have decided her 'calling' for her. Needless to say, there are themes of bodily autonomy and religious oppression. Cecilia essentially becomes a prized cow for the clergy. 

In the lead role, Sydney Sweeney goes ALL in. This movie gave me a whole new respect for her as an actress, and firmly solidifies her place in the Good For Her-niverse. So too does the film itself follow her into unhinged territory with moments of sheer brutality and what-the-fuckness.

From the premise alone, Immaculate might sound like another wannabe Rosemary's Baby but it actually has a lot more in common with 70s giallo - mysterious masked figures roaming the halls, nubile young women in sheer gowns, striking religious imagery, and shockingly violent moments. Even the black gloves make an appearance! It leans into the nunsplotations subgenre a bit, as well (hello, gratuitous nun boobs!)

The film feels longer than its 89-minute runtime but I was never bored. It evolves from an artsy slow-burn to a nasty, disturbing shocker, culminating in a crowd-pleasing third act that will have you shouting, "Holy shit!" (I refuse to apologize for that pun). Seriously though, do not let the mediocre marketing and recent history of lame religious horror flicks dissuade from checking this one out. 

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