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‘Immaculate:’ shallow plot hinders horror gem

Zoe Karibian
The horror film “Immaculate” featured Sydney Sweeney, marking one of her first movies in the horror genre. The film garnered immense popularity, raking in over 12 million dollars worldwide, according to Collider.

“Immaculate” is probably too tasteful and elegant to qualify as nunsploitation, which could be a blessing or a curse, depending on your point of view.

Directed by Michael Mohan, film star Sydney Sweeney plays Sister Cecilia, a novitiate from Detroit who arrives at a secluded Italian convent bright-eyed and hopeful about what God has planned for her, only to discover that one must sometimes be careful what one wishes for. 

There is no way around it: she is adorable, and the customs officers who detain her upon her arrival in Italy, riffling through her little 1960s hard-shell going-away suitcase, cannot help but make crude remarks in their native tongue about her thinly veiled va-va-voom essence.

When Cecilia finally arrives at the convent, a sepia-toned treasure deep in the Italian countryside, the priest, played by Álvaro Morte, greets her warmly. He promises to translate anything she does not understand. He patronizes her in plain sight, but she is grateful for it.

Before you know it, the movie is leaning into an atmospheric thriller, with creepy candlelit corridors, mysterious catacombs and impressive bursts of gore. But, it is also reserved in surprising ways. For all its moments of spectacular flair, “Immaculate” is an art film at heart.

Despite a short 90-minute runtime, the movie does get off to a slow start. When the central conflict is revealed, it sorely lacks originality, which even Sweeney’s extremely committed shrieking cannot distract from.

Like “The Nun,” “Immaculate” combines the rituals of Catholicism with horror. There are the endless genre gimmicks – creaking doors, eerie figures in the shadows and those darned flashlights that only halfway work when you need them most. And, of course, there is the smattering of cheap jump scares that seem to come baked into nearly every horror movie of our time.

However, to its credit, “Immaculate” creates and maintains an eerie atmosphere throughout and does a great job of planting us into its unsettling setting. Meanwhile, fans of blood and gore will adore the movie’s later scenes. But those things aren’t enough to cover the film’s biggest issue – its script.

It starts with Cecilia, who we learn so little about. We are told of a past tragedy and a dramatic spiritual transformation, but only in the vaguest of terms. We also barely get any explanation as to why she would accept an invitation to a convent all the way in Italy. 

As for the convent, even less is revealed about it and its obviously dark history. There are so many questions – for instance, what is the deal with the black-robed figures in the crimson-red masks who pop up at the most random times? 

Horror often serves as a means of exploring real-world issues, and underneath the jump scares and generous helpings of blood, “Immaculate” fritters around questions of women’s rights and patriarchal policies that have prompted women to dress up like characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale” as a form of protest. 

It is a shame that “Immaculate” fails to deliver a compelling storyline because Sweeney’s likable presence truly brings meaning to the term “Scream Queen.” But, being so many decades into religious-based horror, we can do so much better than this.

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About the Contributor
Zoe Karibian, Media Team
Zoe Karibian ('26) is a member of the Media Team for The Standard in Advanced Journalism.

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