'Immaculate' Is a Clumsy Yet Stylish Nunsploitation Horror

Directed by Michael Mohan

Starring Sydney Sweeney, Simona Tabasco, Álvaro Morte, Benedetta Porcaroli

Photo courtesy of Elevation Pictures 

BY Josh KorngutPublished Mar 19, 2024


Following 2021's The Voyeurs, Sydney Sweeney and director Michael Mohan collaborate once again with Immaculate, a beautifully shot and sometimes-fun nunsploitation outing that can't seem to outrun its thin plot, poor casting choices (including Sweeney herself, jarringly miscast) and a slew of ineffective jump scares.

Immaculate follows Sweeney's Cecilia, an American nun invited to an isolated, picturesque Italian monastery after her parish mysteriously shutters. Cecilia sees this opportunity as an honour, thrilled to receive an exclusive offer directly from the Church. On arrival, she's surprised that the priest (Álvaro Morte) and his upper management are also excited about the transfer, offering her an immediate sense of purpose and pride.

Of course, all is not as it seems. Soon, Cecilia discovers her beautiful new home contains strange secrets, jealous adversaries and clues to a violent past. When she becomes miraculously pregnant, the priests and nuns around her are thrilled by the immaculate conception, and her body becomes an unwilling vessel for something nefarious. It's a surface-level allegory for the Church's intention to abolish a woman's right to choose, but this important theme quickly becomes lost in the weeds.

Sweeney took a chance on Immaculate, producing and starring in the horror project once she'd built the industry clout to make something she ostensibly believed in. As a first-time producer, it's cool to watch her grab a fistful of Hollywood's hair and craft a project on her own terms. However, casting herself in the lead role was Sweeney and company's most grievous error, her halting, anachronistic delivery clashing with the film's overall tone.

Thankfully, the film's ornate and historical Italian monastery setting is gorgeous and eerie, complementing occasional moments of gothic fun and brewing dread. Mohan's exceptional use of setting and wardrobe leads one to believe Immaculate would've been more successful as an editorial photoshoot rather than a feature-length horror movie.

The film does have its moments, though. The opening sequence is genuinely chilling, with bone breaks and a live burial not for the faint of heart. And the bizarre and outrageous finale injects some much-needed energy into an otherwise lacklustre horror title. However, these standout moments are overshadowed by a barrage of poorly executed jump scares, tired religious tropes and a clumsy script.

Despite its flaws, Immaculate offers a visually appealing experience. The beautiful cinematography, location and performances (save for Sweeney) offer a compelling reason to watch until the credits roll. Still, the film's misinterpretation of psychological horror and reliance on tired tropes dampen the overall experience.

The marketing might be masquerading Immaculate as a heightened genre exercise in league with the A24 crowd, but in truth, this standard religious horror is just as undercooked as any of the Conjuring universe spin-offs.

(Elevation Pictures)

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