Immaculate - Film Review

Immaculate - Film Review

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Posted 2024-03-21 by Jenfollow
Images © Black Bear, Fifty-Fifty Films

Directed by Michael Mohan, Immaculate stars Sydney Sweeney (Sister Cecilia), Alvaro Morte (Father Sal Tedeschi), Simona Tabasco (Sister Mary), Benedetta Porcaroli (Sister Gwen), Giorgio Colangeli (Cardinal Franco Merola), Giampiero Judica (Doctor Gallo), and Dora Romano (Mother Superior). With a run time of 89 minutes and of the 'Horror' genre, this film will screen in cinemas from 21 March 2024.

Sister Cecilia is an American nun of devout faith, embarking on a new journey in a remote convent in the picturesque Italian countryside. When Cecilia was young, she suffered a near-death experience and grew in the belief that God saved her for a reason. She hopes to find that reason at the convent. Welcomed warmly amidst comments of how beautiful she looks, the welcome mat quickly devolves into a nightmare as it becomes clear her new home harbours a dark and sinister secret and unspeakable horrors.


The opening scene of the film has your heart in your mouth as you witness a young woman tip-toeing about looking for keys to open the gates of the convent. It's clear that she's trying to escape, but alas, doesn't quite make it, and suffers the consequences of punishment meted out to her. The storyline then shifts to Cecilia the noviciate who has travelled far and is staunch in her belief, that this is her calling. She meets Sister Mary who has the adjoining room - the door between their rooms unlocked. She's not quite the conventional nun and adds a little light and laughter to Cecilia's existence. At the convent is Father Sal Tedeschi, a former geneticist who is known to be able to spot the lost lambs and bring them home to the convent so to speak. He's the mentor Cecilia has been corresponding with, and it's at his behest to take her vows at the secluded convent that brought her here.

Life at the convent is a daily routine of chores, taking care of the sick and the ageing nuns - some a little senile, with time to spare spent in prayer and confession. Within the convent is one of the treasures venerated by the sisters, a relic believed to be a nail from the crucifixion - a long iron nail supposedly pulled from Christ's own palm. Perhaps overcome by her devout belief, Cecilia faints and is subsequently plagued by things that 'go bump in the night', terrifying visions and apparitions. There's heavy breathing by her door as she sleeps, wailing sounds she goes and investigates; just before she starts feeling ill and throws up during a bath. After repeated questioning about her chastity, it's discovered she's pregnant, a miracle, an immaculate conception free of original sin. Cecilia wonders why she was the chosen one. This leads to her being cared for and revered by all the nuns, except Sister Mary who is more than a little suspicious, voices her opinions loudly, and pays the price. Yet, there are others who wish it was them who were carrying the child of Christ.


The horror of this film is steeped in the reality of the story, but not before a few good jump scares to unsettle you a little, keeping you on edge wondering when the next one is going to be, keeping you tense in anticipation. The first half of the film relies on these jump scares and musical scores that evoke a sense of eerie dread to do the heavy lifting to keep the audience jumping out of their skin. The remote convent setting is perfect as it sits atop an ancient catacomb deep in the remote countryside. Shrouded in sepia tones, a little dark, a little mysterious, a tangible sense of isolation, and absolutely foreboding, it's beautifully shot. Kudos to the cinematography that enhances the movie's aesthetics and contributes hugely to its ambience as it adds depth to each scene and crafts a visually compelling and immersive experience. The only thing a little vague is the time the story is set in, and the mysterious figures of soldier-like sisters in red masks who move in precision and hover in the dark.

In the second half of the film, Cecilia strips herself of her apathetic character and finds her stride and her courage as her survival instincts kick in. She goes from meek and docile to blood-soaked, and fighting for her life. It's at this time that she truly engages the audience as she moves away from unconvincing reactions inconsistent with the gravity of her situation - a performance meant to get a reaction from the audience no doubt. The tempo of the film steps up once reality sets in and the horror is discovered. The jump scares walk out the door and in walks real horror and the twisted true intentions and reasons behind her calling to the nunnery.


Sydney Sweeney not only stars in this film but co-produced it as well. She performs and holds the screen equally well as a doe-eyed and docile devotee, as she does the screaming, resourceful blood soaked nun that delivers a hell of an ending. With the camera up close and recording her every emotion, Sweeney doesn't waver and conveys her performance in an impactful way. Simona Tabasco as Sister Mary reminded me a little of Penelope Cruz, and shines as the nun who colours outside the square. Her performance brings a little normality to the stifling atmosphere and breaks it open with rebellion when she tries to awaken everyone from the stupor they seem to be lost in. Benedetta Porcaroli is another as Sister Gwen that shines and bristles with envy. The female strong cast's fantastic performance doesn't end there, with senile nuns contributing to the jump scares.

Jump scares aside, I left the cinema feeling I had actually seen a good film. It is anchored by an impressive performance by Sweeney with a storyline that's plausible, including its conclusion when a heavily pregnant Sweeney does her utmost to escape 'God's plan'. For those of you not into horror, I have found once you hit the point where you understand where the film is going, the horror leaves the room - most of the time :)





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281121 - 2024-03-19 15:05:47

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