Immaculate 2024 review

Immaculate (2024)

Immaculate (2024) Directed by Michael Mohan

Sometimes when the motifs in a film are so referential and self-explanatory, one can’t help but wonder, what would have become of those films without their dependent influences? Maybe there would be nothing exciting left to narrate in them, but at least it would encourage -and compel- the filmmakers to be authentic when transposing new concepts into the audiovisual medium. And yes, by this I’m bluntly implying that Michael Mohan’s Immaculate could have been better if only its psychological horror à la Rosemary’s Baby and its nunsploitation-style storytelling patterns hadn’t been so obscenely straightforward. Nevertheless, as far as knockoffs of Polanski’s film are concerned, this is a goddamn great one, with so many evocations of European exploitation cinema that while I didn’t find Immaculate’s staggering perversity entirely successful in its thought-provoking formula, I did find the innuendos immaculately compelling.

It’s your garden-variety horror tale, about Sister Cecilia (Sydney Sweeney), a young American nun who is invited to join a lavish, long-standing convent in Italy, a nunnery where many elderly sisters are cared for in their last days of life. Once there, in the awe-inspiring evangelical atmosphere of the sprawling convent, Sister Cecilia goes from feeling at ease in the ascetic lifestyle of the nuns to being overwhelmed by the bizarre, outlandish, and extremely patriarchal demeanor of the priests. Always on a ceremonious aesthetic plane, Michael Mohan’s direction never succumbs to the elemental blasphemy expected in this type of film, but it does manifest iconoclasm, not through a vulgar deconstruction of religious iconography, but through the sensuous, quasi-erotic lens of Elisha Christian’s ardent cinematography. The sweeping mise-en-scène is unremittingly suggestive, and the imagery unraveling along its axes turns Sister Cecilia’s sojourn in that bone-chilling convent into a Heavenly Inferno; where those who preach the word of God translate their fundamentalism into full-blown, homicidal schizophrenia.

Michael Mohan, in no section of his film displays a knack for crafting the situational horror as a means to elicit dread in his audience, yet when the film capitalizes on its violent imagery and forsakes the metaphorical delicacy of the pseudo-supernatural vibe to adopt the whimsicality of shock, Mohan’s camera springs to life, it grows monumental. His skill lies in delivering shocks without forfeiting the topical meaning of the overall narrative. With a mercifully short running time and a gracefully lean narrative, the film wastes no time in the rigmarole of social commentary. I’ve read many reviews waxing witless over-interpretations of Michael Mohan’s Nun Horror; guys it’s just a grotesque, ruthless depiction of the monotheistic institutional delirium to push their religious convictions to an irrational and murderous degree. Yeah sure, there’s a social commentary here and there about bodily autonomy, but to assume that the film gravitates around the ethics of that theme is to deny that the film functions more as an unhinged, stylish sectarian horror piece. Though Sydney Sweeney’s volcanic performance is also one of the commendable explanations for Immaculate’s visceral potency.

Immaculate exhausts the geographic grandeur of its hallowed location and utilizes its elaborate architecture as a veritable purgatory where it plays verbatim the biblical verse 2 Corinthians 11:14 “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” and stages a whole blood-soaked storyline around it with terrific acting payoffs for Sydney Sweeney, who gives one of the most thunderously impactful performances I’ve ever seen. It’s not merely the radical psychotic character arc she goes through that makes her performance incredible, it’s that she has the singular faculty of sustaining uncomfortable close-ups without disrupting the agonizing contorted grimace of her character’s freaked-out countenance. The latter makes Immaculate something more than just a gripping shocker, it is also a confident, satisfying horror vehicle for its lead actress.


Matteo Bedon

Written by

Editor and Official Film Critic at

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