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Religious horror is very much rearing its veiled head again at the moment, mostly to negative effect (The Nun II and The Exorcist: Believer) and with next month’s The First Omen unfortunately most likely going to continue that trend (trust me I would like to think otherwise). However, with Immaculate, the filmmakers have crafted an undeniably trashy and simultaneously self-serious, tonally muddled yet fun and gory stab at a tired sub-genre.


Immaculate follows Cecilia (Sydney Sweeney), a woman of devout faith, as she is warmly welcomed to the picture-perfect Italian countryside where she is offered a new role at an illustrious convent. But it becomes clear to Cecilia that her new home harbours dark and horrifying secrets.


Clocking in at just under 90 minutes certainly means that Immaculate doesn’t overstay its welcome, quickly establishing its premise and floors the acceleration for the duration of the flick. Whilst this makes for a suitably engaging and rampant viewing, it does hinder any real substance to the material. The characters barely get any time to breathe and I wish there was a tad more exploration of the convent. After a very familiar first act (which had me concerned that this would mostly just be another generic religious horror), the film shifts gears and goes gleefully bonkers in its reveals.

It’s rare for a film to earn its 18 rating, however Immaculate certainly is worthy of that sinister stamp. Brutal practical effects reign supreme here, with vicious stabbings, slicing, wince-inducing facial (and tongue) damage and gallons of blood. It’s extremely morbidly refreshing to see the campy carnage on display with the genre so littered with tame PG-13/15 rated guff at the moment. From a production design standpoint the film is well crafted and distinct (with it nailing the ‘locale out of time’ feel of a convent. The cinematography is strong and the score looms over the film in grandiose and gargantuan fashion. There is one qualm I have with the sound design, which is a bizarre and irritating rattling/thumping effect which occurs throughout the first act. I assume it’s intended for discomfort purposes but mostly came off as feeling like a distracting projector glitch.


Sydney Sweeney clearly is very devoted to the material (she co-produces here) and plays a far more restrained role in the first half of the feature, before having to unleash a truly fierce, in your face, scream heavy performance in the latter half. It’s just a shame that her character really doesn’t have much substance within the screenplay. Unfortunately, the supporting cast aren’t particularly memorable here and suffer from a lack of presence.

Immaculate is certainly style over substance and will no doubt prove to be divisive. Whilst it still can’t escape familiar jump scare heavy trappings, its brutal, schlocky bursts of throwback gnarly horror are very welcome. The technical aspects are strong and the third act cranks up the craziness which helps overshadow its lacklustre first half.


Rating When Evil Lurks



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