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  • Rev Horror


Dir. Michael Mohan (2024)

A young woman joins a convent in Italy and soon discovers that she is pregnant despite being a virgin.

The Catholic Church is rife for horror critique. It has been for decades, of course, as evident by the plethora of nunsploitation films from the 60's and 70's (and beyond), but it just feels even more open season on the Church than it ever has before. Between the child sex abuse scandals, which have rocked the church over the last several decades and have shown no signs of doing anything but increasing in frequency, and the decrease in attendance that is actually resulting in some of the churches around the country dying off, the 2020's feel like an era where it's okay to criticize religion and its often-contradictory edifices. Despite its many flaws, however, there is still something beautiful about the Catholic Church, especially when it comes to the nuns and their absolute dedication to a life of servitude and solace. Enter Immaculate, a film that somehow appreciates the beauty of the people while absolutely bodying a rather large part of Church doctrine along the way.

Cecilia (Sydney Sweeney) has moved to Italy to join an Italian convent after her local parish in America was forced to close its doors due to decreased attendance. Shortly after her arrival, she is brought into a chamber where the church displays its relic: one of the actual nails that was used to fasten Jesus to the cross. After touching the nail and passing out, Cecilia shortly thereafter finds herself vomiting during inopportune moments, coming down with a bad case of the pregnants. As the newly expectant virgin must deal with her condition, the church officials become more and more shady, leaving Cecilia fighting to escape the convent before she gives birth to whatever is inside of her.

Immaculate is a beautifully shot movie, truly gorgeous to look at and absolutely brutal when it needs to be. It's a slow burn, to be sure, but when the gloves come off, baby, they come off. The sound design is likewise phenomenal, with every whisper being heard directionally (so much so that I was looking around in the theater because I thought someone was trying to talk to me), and the sound effects are excruciatingly realistic and well done. The score is very Italian-themed at times, feeling very much like something that would come out of the Old Country in the 60's or 70's. In that way (and a few others), Immaculate has more in common with the giallo than it does with the nunsploitation films that I was expecting to compare it to going in.

Don't get me wrong, there are no black-gloved killers to be found (Well, kinda, but you'll see that for yourself). The art stylings of the film, most notably a beautifully striking scene in which Sydney Sweeney looks every bit like a bas-relief of the Virgin Mary, just feel so Italian that it does all come across like a giallo Rosemary's Baby throughout most of the runtime. Even when the blood-soaked finale begins, which is counter to the first two acts of the film, the unflinching brutality is quite reminiscent of the European gore masters. It's a slow burn, but it will more than reward your patience with bloodshed.

Immaculate is perhaps a bit too reliant on jumpscares, with a few that feel cheap (though effective nonetheless). It does, however, feel more relevant today than ever, especially in America after the repeal of Roe v. Wade and the rise of Christian nationalism. The themes of bodily autonomy and freedom from religious oppression are paramount in the storytelling, and it's done in a way that will have your heart aching for anyone who has felt themselves in a situation like this. Sweeney is fantastic in the lead, and while I hesitate to even put the words out into the world, her performance was a little evocative of Mia Goth's phenomenal role in Pearl. Calm down, folks, it's not as good... but it's pretty damn good anyway.

All in all, this is a movie that will likely offend those looking to be offended, but is a damn fine watch besides. It's not the sexy nun movie that you probably expected when you heard about Sweeney dressing in a habit, but it's a fantastic modern parable about freedom of choice and the consequences and perils of taking that away. It's a beautiful film with an outstanding score, and it works on just about every level. I definitely recommend checking it out, and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Who this movie is for: Religious horror fans, Giallo appreciators, OBGYNs

Bottom line: Sydney Sweeney does an extraordinary job in her role as the young virgin mother and nearly everything else about the film works as well. It's gorgeously shot, near perfectly scored, and it's a film that pleasantly surprised me on pretty much every level. This one is highly recommended, and it's probably my favorite film I've seen in theaters so far this year. Check it out.

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