Film Review: Immaculate; Sydney Sweeney commits to disturbing, potentially triggering, religious horror outing

Given Sydney Sweeney‘s dedication to Immaculate as a production, it makes sense that the actress gives her all across the 89 minutes of Michael Mohan‘s disturbing, occasionally blackly comic, religious horror film.

A decade-or-so ago, Sweeney, who was still mainly working in C-grade film fare at the time, read the Andrew Lobel-penned script and knew she was perfect for the lead role.  She auditioned, but never heard back, and eventually the project was shelved and lingered in limbo.  The actress, and now producer, kept tabs on the film, picking up for her own benefit, and maintained a hands-on approach regarding casting, costuming, and script-perfecting.

The final result is a testament to her dedication to the film overall, with the constantly surprising actress delivering a brave, committed turn in a feature that shocks and unnerves; to say the final shot of the film will spur controversy and conversation in equal measure is a massive understatement.

But to get to said ending we need a starting point, and from the off Immaculate lures audiences in with its sinister suggestion of an Italian convent that’s lined with more sinners than saints.  Sweeney enters the fray as Sister Cecilia, an early 20s American, who is relocating on her continued path towards expressing her devout faith; we learn that, as a child, she nearly drowned in a frozen lake, and having recovered from her own death of 7 minutes, she’s of the understanding that God spared her for a reason.

Her lack of Italian tongue puts her at a disadvantage amongst the majority of the nuns there, but she makes quick friends with the similarly-aged (and English speaking) Gwen (Benedetta Porcaroli), who notes that the convent seems to attract women who are lost or broken.  It doesn’t take long for Lobel’s script to lean into its genre tendencies with things going bump in the night and Cecilia seeing figures who may or may not be lurking by.

There’s an ease to how Mohan layers the film with a discomfort, and when Cecilia is find out to be pregnant (through no form of traditional act), with the nuns hailing her child baring as an immaculate conception that very well could be the next Saviour, Immaculate‘s mentality immediately adopts an even more extreme personality.  Cecilia’s well-being is strangely not as important as it should be, and the plethora of signs and encounters she observes in the lead-up are ultimately pieced together, culminating in a truly disturbing, intensely raw finale that could shake some viewers to their core; if you are light-stomached, easily offended, or devoutly religious, this film could prove quite triggering.

Whilst the shock value of the film’s climax is what is likely to earn audience reaction, it’s Sweeney’s performance that should stay with you long after her gut-wrenching scream has echoed off the screen.  She bares herself as an actress and storyteller unafraid, and, as predictable as such a turn-of-phrase may be, Immaculate is truly all the more because she dares so.

FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Immaculate is screening in Australian theatres from March 21st, 2024.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.