Immaculate (2024) poster

Immaculate (2024)


USA. 2024.


Director – Michael Mohan, Screenplay – Andrew Lobel, Producers – David Bernard, Jonathan Davino, Michael Heimler, Teddy Schwarzman & Sydney Sweeney, Photography – Elisha Christian, Music – Will Bates, Visual Effects – Crafty Apes (Supervisor – John Brubaker), Special Effects Supervisor – Paolo Galiano, Makeup Effects/Prosthetics – Baburka Factory, Production Design – Adam Reamer. Production Company – Fifty-Fifty Films/Middle Child Pictures.


Sydney Sweeney (Sister Cecilia Jones), Alvaro Morte (Father Sal Tedeschi), Simona Tabasco (Sister Mary), Benedetta Porcaroli (Sister Guendalina/Gwen), Giorgio Colangeli (Cardinal Franco Merola), Dora Romano (Mother Superior), Giampiero Judica (Dr Gallo), Giulia Heathfield Di Renzi (Sister Isabelle)


Cecilia Jones arrives in Italy from the US as a postulant nun. She settles into life at the convent and takes her vows. Not long after, it is discovered that Cecilia is pregnant – this despite her never having had sex with a man and her hymen remaining intact. It is proclaimed a miracle. However, as the child grows within her, Cecilia discovers sinister things afoot at the convent.

Sydney Sweeney is an actress whose reputation has risen markedly since around 2020. This has largely been due to tv work such as appearances in The Handmaid’s Tale (2017- ), Everything Sucks (2018), Sharp Objects (2018) and in particular the big hits of Euphoria (2019- ) and The White Lotus (2021- ). She has also appeared in assorted films, including a number of genre works with the likes of Zombies of Mass Destruction (2009), The Ward (2010), Spiders (2013), The Horde (2016), Nocturne (2020), Night Teeth (2021) and Madame Web (2024), along with other works like Under the Silver Lake (2018) and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019).

Through this, Sweeney has gained a reputation for roles that show off her undeniably spectacular body in an unclothed state – one of the big talking points that led to Euphoria being a hit. I am not quite sold on her as an actress as yet, her Emmy award nominations notwithstanding. She comes across as the cross-eyed younger sister of Amanda Seyfried where her slightly sleepy appearance looks like someone standing blankly waiting for a directorial cue to bring her to life. I suppose after the number of undressed roles that she has appeared in, her taking the role of a virginal nun here could be considered what they used to call an actor stretching their range.

The Catholic horror film could almost be considered its own genre. Ever since The Exorcist (1973), the possession and exorcism film has been intertwined with Catholic ritual and its priests seen as the frontline defenders of the faith against demonic forces, something that was still going on as recently as the absurd supposedly true-life based The Pope’s Exorcist (2023). The majority of Catholic horror films rest in the possession genre, although there have been some variants such as the conspiracies within the church leading to the birth of the Anti-Christ in The Omen (1976) and most recently the spate of supernaturally empowered nun films we have had following The Nun (2018). (See Catholicism in Fantastic Cinema for a more detailed listing).

Sydney Sweeney as Sister Cecilia in Immaculate (2024)
Sydney Sweeney as Sister Cecilia

I made the initial assumption that Immaculate would be another possession and exorcism film. I should have paid more attention to the title and realised what we have is an Immaculate Conception horror film, which must be a first. This place Immaculate into the same arena as other films such as The Baby of Mâcon (1993), The Visitation (2006) and The Unholy (2021) where miracles have ambiguous and sinister overtones. Although the work this most closely resembles is the recent conceptually madcap The Devil Conspiracy (2022) that involved the theft of the Shroud of Turin and the attempt to create a clone body for The Devil out of Jesus’s DNA.

The very fact that Immaculate is pitched as a horror film means that there is less ambiguity about the miracle than might seem. It is a well-made film in most regards. The Italian locations look pretty, the candelit chapels and shadowy corridors of the convent are nicely lit. The casting is reasonable, including giving some English-language presence to Alvaro Morte, the dashingly charismatic Professor from the recent viewing pleasure that was La Casa de Papel/Money Heist (2017-21).

On the other hand, director Michael Mohan, who also put Sydney Sweeney through her paces in the Everything Sucks tv series and the film The Voyeurs (2021), is stuck down at the level of jumpshocks with scenes of nuns creeping up with pairs of scissors. It is always an ominous prospect for a film when the first scare of the film ends up being a dream jump, one where Sydney Sweeney wakes up being attacked by faceless nuns. The film does arrive at a grim ending but its journey there is one that only makes it a slightly better made version of The Nun and its pop-up shocks.

Trailer here

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