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‘Immaculate’ (review)

Religious and occult horror has always fascinated audiences, and this horror sub-genre has indeed delivered many classics such as Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen and of course, The Exorcist.

However, as popular as this genre consistently seems to be, the best of the best are largely relegated to that initial trio of classics released in the 60s and 70s, as religious horrors of late have fallen into that tired old trap of relying on the general imagery and jump scares galore to do all the work.

Unfortunately, Immaculate is not the Second Coming of religious horror either.

While Sydney Sweeney’s investment in the role is apparent, one actress being passionate about a project is simply insufficient when the rest of the film around her is largely disappointing.

It appears there was a wish to emulate current talking points about bodily autonomy in Immaculate, but the film is simply too shallow to make any meaningful commentary.

This is largely down to an underwhelming script inhabited by characters who are so underbaked that it becomes incredibly difficult to genuinely invest in any of them, as they all largely feel like caricatures without any emotional gravitas, and this in turn negatively impacts the ability to suspend disbelief.

Choosing to rely on paraphrasing elements from other occult horror classics to invoke discomfort in the viewer, Immaculate unfortunately does not rely sufficiently on the inherent horror of its own premise, and while the odd nod to another genre classic is fine when utilized well, it somewhat takes away from the film that the filmmakers felt it necessary to add jump scares and gore for the sake of gore with this one.

In spite of topical themes, the plot is nonetheless wafer-thin and predictable, which undermines the acute tension such a scenario should invoke in the viewer, and once it is revealed how Sister Cecilia has ended up in her predicament, as the plot device the filmmakers settled on is goofy and unsatisfying for a film that attempts to reinforce such an interesting subtext.

As for special effects, the film is surprisingly gory, and while some of the effects are executed quite well, unfortunately, they largely end up feeling misguided. This results in them subtracting from the film, as both the explicit and implicit body horror associated with pregnancy could have been utilized to much better effect than it ultimately is here.

Speaking of the more exploitative elements, there are hints of nunsploitation here, which works both for and against the subtext of the film, but much like the filmmakers did not forego the jump scares in spite of having a premise that could have been frightening enough in itself if it had been fleshed out better, they are also unwilling to fully lean into the nunsploitation, which again seems worse than omitting this aspect altogether.

Audiences have been fed up with dull scripts and jump scares for a good long while now, so there is simply no excuse for undermining an otherwise interesting premise with an invested lead in the way that it is here. Ultimately Immaculate is not so much a bad film as it is a testament to squandered potential, and while I may not possess the power of Christ, I nonetheless compel you to find a different movie to watch.

Verdict: 3 out of 10.

* * * * *
Produced by David Bernad, Sydney Sweeney,
Jonathan Davino, Teddy Schwarzman, Michael Heimler

Written by Andrew Lobel
Directed by Michael Mohan
Starring Sydney Sweeney, Álvaro Morte, Benedetta Porcaroli,
Dora Romano, Giorgio Colangeli, Simona Tabasco

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