Original title:Immaculate
Director:Michael Mohan
Running time:89 minutes
Release date:22 march 2024
Cecilia, a young American nun, moves into an isolated convent in the Italian countryside. The welcome is warm, but Cecilia soon realizes that her new home harbors a sinister secret, and that terrible things are happening there...

Mulder's Review

In the sacred and often frightening corridors of religious horror cinema, Immaculate stands out as a fascinating work, woven from the darkest threads of faith and fear. Directed by Michael Mohan, with a captivating central performance by Sydney Sweeney, the film ventures into the dark confines of an isolated Italian convent, where the divine and the diabolical intertwine with disconcerting ease. Immaculate is a meditation on the complexities of faith, the mysteries of divine intervention and the unsettling dynamics of power in the bastions of religious authority.

The film introduces us to Sister Cecilia (Sydney Sweeney), a young American nun whose journey to an isolated convent in Italy marks the beginning of a chilling tale. Sydney Sweeney, known for her multiple interpretations on TV and in film, brings a nuanced vulnerability and resilience to Cecilia, whose faith and moral strength are tested in unimaginable ways. The premise of her sudden, inexplicable pregnancy serves as the catalyst for a story that teeters between horror and hagiography, questioning the very foundations of sanctity and sin.

Immaculate stands out for its ambitious exploration of religious iconography and doctrine, using the convent - a site of sacred refuge - as the setting for a narrative that blurs the boundaries between the miraculous and the malevolent. The film deftly navigates the rich and often macabre visual and thematic motifs of Catholicism, from the martyrdom of saints to the veneration of sacred relics, imbuing the narrative with a sense of deep, even perverse spirituality.

However, the film's aspirations are sometimes undermined by its execution. The use of conventional horror stylistic devices, including jump scares and a creeping sense of dread, sometimes seems at odds with its more ambitious thematic ventures. What's more, the pace of the narrative, which meanders through the first act and rushes to its conclusion, prevents the film from fully engaging with its deeper philosophical questions.

Despite these few shortcomings, Immaculate benefits immensely from the performance of Sydney Sweeney, who anchors the film amidst its forays into the fantastic. Her portrayal of Cecilia's transformation - from wide-eyed novice to woman grappling with a destiny both blessed and cursed - lends the film depth and complexity. The supporting cast also lends credibility to the cloistered world of the convent, although the characters are often more archetypes than individuals in their own right.

The film's critique of patriarchal authority within the Church is one of its most compelling aspects. Immaculate doesn't shy away from depicting how women's bodies and choices are controlled under the guise of religious duty, making it a timely commentary on questions of autonomy and consent. This critique is woven into the fabric of the horror story, elevating the film above mere genre conventions to engage with contemporary social and theological debates.

Visually, Immaculate is a feast for the eyes, with its sumptuous depiction of the Italian countryside and the austere beauty of the convent. The cinematography captures the strange tranquility of the sacred space, juxtaposing it with the darkness that lurks beneath the surface. The music, too, reinforces the film's atmosphere, blending traditional liturgical music with dissonant elements to underscore the tension between reverence and horror.

Immaculate is a film of contradictions. It is both a tribute to the rich traditions of religious horror and a critique of the institutions it depicts. Though it can falter in its pacing and reliance on genre figures, the film is buoyed by Sydney Sweeney's masterful performance and ambitious engagement with themes of faith, autonomy and the divine. Immaculate may not redefine the religious horror genre, but it is a notable addition that encourages its audience to ponder the profound mysteries of faith in the shadow of fear.

Directed by Michael Mohan
Written by Andrew Lobel
Produced by David Bernad, Sydney Sweeney, Jonathan Davino, Teddy Schwarzman, Michael Heimler
Starring Sydney Sweeney, Álvaro Morte, Benedetta Porcaroli, Dora Romano, Giorgio Colangeli, Simona Tabasco
Cinematography : Elisha Christian
Edited by Christian Masini
Music by Will Bates
Production companies : Black Bear Pictures, Fifty-Fifty Films, Middle Child Pictures
Distributed by Neon (United States), Metropolitan FilmExport (France)
Release dates : March 12, 2024 (SXSW), Marchy 20, 2024 (France), March 22, 2024 (United States)
Running time : 89 minutes

Seen March 15, 2024 at Gaumont Disney Village, Room 3 seat A19

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