Film reviews and more since 2009

Immaculate (2024) review

Dir. Michael Mohan

By: Steve Pulaski

Rating: ★★

Nunsploitation coupled with a solid central performance are two terrible things to waste, and the way Michael Mohan’s Immaculate misuses both feels like a sin punishable by exiling the project all together.

Part Italian giallo splatter-flick and part Rosemary’s Baby, Immaculate takes place in a closed Catholic community in Italy during an undisclosed period in time. My guess is the mid-aughts due to the presence of older model cell phones. We see this community through the eyes of Sister Cecilia (Sydney Sweeney), who arrives in Italy to take her vows and serve as a palliative care nurse for sick, elderly nuns. For some reason — so we Americans aren’t “burdened” by the ubiquity of subtitles — Cecilia left the States to live in a country in which she doesn’t speak a lick of the language, so Father Sal Tedeschi (Álvaro Morte) serves as her Italian-to-English translator.

One day while taking a bath, Cecilia vomits. A pregnancy test comes back positive, despite Cecilia keeping her vow of chastity and never having sex. No less, she is bearing a child, and everyone at the nunnery believes she is experiencing an immaculate conception, including Cardinal Franco Merola (Giorgio Colangeli) and Mother Superior (Dora Romano). Predictably, it’s about this time that Cecilia starts noticing things going bump in the night.

Mohan and cinematographer Elisha Christian try but fail to make this community a claustrophobic enclave of deception and distrust. One sequence involving Cecilia navigating tight, labyrinth-like catacombs lit only by her flashlight evokes feelings of discombobulation, but for the most part, Immaculate looks like too many other horror movies of this same ilk, most notably The Nun.

With the exception of Cecilia, whom Sweeney plays convincingly, none of the supporting characters transcend the small boxes in which screenwriter Andrew Lobel puts them. Morte’s Father Sal is afforded one scene of connection with Cecilia shortly after she arrives in Italy, and Sister Gwen (Benedetta Porcaroli) disappears just as she settles into her role as our protagonist’s bitter and snarky colleague.

Immaculate builds to a climax made somewhat exciting because it forces Sweeney to turn feral. Cecilia takes matters into her own hands, and finally makes a decision by herself, for herself, surrounded by no one but the ear-piercing sounds of her own screams. However, by this point, Mohan and company haven’t given us enough substance for any kind of message to be anything but hollow. It becomes apparent very early on that this is a horror movie intent on offering jumpscares and half-baked ideas it doesn’t intend to explore. Mohan told Fangoria that, despite what the masses might subscribe to the it, and what ridiculous social media uproar might suggest, the film isn’t designed to have a “social message.” That makes sense. Nobody should mistake Immaculate for being anything other than an 84-minute time-killer.

NOTE: Immaculate is now playing exclusively in movie theaters.

Starring: Sydney Sweeney, Álvaro Morte, Benedetta Porcaroli, Dora Romano, Giorgio Colangeli, and Simona Tabasco. Directed by: Michael Mohan.

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About Steve Pulaski

Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!

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