wed 17/04/2024

Immaculate review - grisly convent horror is timely but flawed | reviews, news & interviews

Immaculate review - grisly convent horror is timely but flawed

Immaculate review - grisly convent horror is timely but flawed

Sydney Sweeney impresses, but director Michael Mohan is too eager to scare

The unexpected: Sydney Sweeney in 'Immaculate'

Immaculate marks Sydney Sweeney’s complete takeover of the big screen. This year alone she has brought back the rom-com with Anyone But You, showed off her acting chops in whistle-blower drama Reality, and joined the Marvel universe with Madame Web. Immaculate is her headfirst dive into horror, and it’s a grisly convent story that aims for Rosemary’s Baby meets Suspiria, but sometimes feels like The Nun 2.

We first meet Sweeney’s Sister Cecilia as she waits at immigration in Italy. She has travelled from Michigan to join My Lady Sorrows, a convent and hospice in the Italian countryside. Welcomed with open arms, Sister Cecilia settles into her new life of poverty, chastity, and obedience. That is until the morning sickness settles in and an ultra-sound machine is dusted off to confirm she is pregnant.

A devout Catholic, Sister Cecilia has a harder time with the imposter syndrome than the immaculate conception – “Why me?” she asks. But she grows wearier as the trimesters pass. Who are the nuns in red masks she glimpses around corners?  What happened that night in confession? And why is she not allowed to leave?

Immaculate doesn’t exactly play it safe, but earns its 18+ rating with crunchy, squelchy body horror and plenty of grisly murders involving crucifixes and rosaries. But director Michael Mohan is too eager to make the audience squirm, prodding us all over to see where we’ll react. For all its peeling fingernails, mangled faces, and severed tongues, it never gets the pacing right to make these nasty moments sting. Similarly, the incessant jump scares lose their impact as they arrive in steady, predictable increments. 

What offers some bite is the film’s power as a political parable. In a post-Roe v. Wade America where the fight for reproductive rights is heading in the wrong direction, Immaculate taps into the real-life horror of organised religion and the medical establishment asserting control over women’s bodies. While Sweeney (pictured above) and Mohan have been evasive branding it a pro-choice film, there’s nothing evasive about the finale.

And it is a great finale. At last brushing off the well-mannered horror tropes that have bogged down the film so far, Mohan goes for something minimal, raw, and shocking. As the blood-drenched Sweeney delivers a scream for the ages, it finally sends a shiver down your spine. Absolution at last.

For all its peeling fingernails, mangled faces, and severed tongues, it never gets the pacing right

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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