Review – Immaculate (2024)

(Deadline, 2024)

Spring’s new psychological horror feature ‘Immaculate’ sees Sydney Sweeney star as Sister Cecelia, a devout nun who finds herself trapped in a secluded convent in the Italian countryside. Fighting for her life, Sister Cecelia finds herself subjected to experiments orchestrated by the church in an attempt to bring about the second coming.

‘Immaculate’ explores themes of isolation, misplaced faith, and the duplicitous nature of the seemingly beautiful. Sweeney provides an electric performance that encapsulates the tipping point between sheer terror and blind rage, carrying the audience with her through a dark and at times gruesome journey of Sister Cecelia’s self discovery and relationship with her faith.

Sister Cecelia, a young, fresh faced religious girl, embarks on a new chapter of her life as she travels to Italy to work as a carer providing end of life care for old, sick nuns. She found her faith after a near death experience in her childhood; she now follows God as she believes that he saved her that day to serve a purpose, but she is yet to discover what that purpose may be. Upon arrival in Italy, Sister Cecelia detects an unsettling atmosphere which shrouds the convent.

After blacking out on her first night she soon discovers that she has become pregnant through a seemingly Immaculate conception. Sister Cecelia was guided to the convent by her faith in God and was consequently expected to put her trust into his representatives on earth. However, after it is discovered that she is the subject of a cruel and inhumane experiment, it is clear that Sister Cecelia’s faith was misplaced, not with God, but with those who follow him and twist their beliefs to justify their own heinous agendas.

(Variety 2024)

We learn early on that Father Tedeschi – the Priest who summoned Cecelia to the convent in the first place – devoted two decades of his life to the field of biology before he found his own place amongst the church. It isn’t until later that we discover Father Tedeschi was shunned from the profession due to conducting unethical experiments.

Once we learn the truth behind Sister Cecelia’s pregnancy it is clear that the purpose which Father Tedeschi and the rest of the convent serve is not in fact God’s but their own. They attempt, in the name of God, to engineer a biologically perfect replication of Christ and believe that he will be their saviour and wash away their sins. The convent firmly believes what they’re doing is for the greater good because, as stated by the Cardinal, “If this is not the will of God, why does he not stop us?”.

Yet, the fact that Father Tedeschi uses eugenics to force the creation of a Messiah opposes the Christian belief that Christ will rise again at the right time. We can also then see how the title, ‘Immaculate’ serves two meanings: firstly, it denotes the idea of an immaculate conception and secondly, it represents the attempt to design a genetically perfect foetus carried by the perfect vessel – Sister Cecelia – destined to become a faultless religious figure.

(Screenrant, 2024)

The setting of ‘Immaculate’ is another important element of the film as it embodies one of the main motifs – darkness masked by beauty. We are provided with a plethora of shots both inside and outside of the convent, depicting both the architectural and natural beauty of the Italian scenery. These shots however are lengthy and linger in certain rooms and corridors. This gives us the foreboding impression that there is something lurking in the convent, a malevolent force or motive hiding amongst the picturesque dressing of this religious building.

Similarly, when Sister Cecelia first arrives at the convent she is sweet, innocent and devout. However, once under threat she is capable of embracing the darkness emanated by the convent and doing whatever it takes in order to survive. Finally, a bible quote hidden on the wall of Sister Cecelia’s bedroom – “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” – foreshadows the duplicitous nature of Sister Cecelia’s baby suggesting that it has the potential to be a force of evil, disguised as a miracle.

(Discussing Film, 2024)

‘Immaculate’ provides a thrilling cinematic experience bringing audiences along for a ride full of gut wrenching twists and abhorrent revelations. The film emphasises the idea that a person’s faith is uniquely their own; a relationship with God should be an individual experience, not dictated by anyone or by an alternative motive. Sydney Sweeney perfectly captures Sister Cecelia’s journey in discovering that God’s purpose for her is to choose her own path. ‘Immaculate’ is a must-see new horror flick and a perfect combination of a harrowing conspiracy and the prevail of a person’s faith in themself.

Hope Lelliott-Stevens

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