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Film review: “Immaculate”

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Immaculate movie poster. Courtesy of NEON.

“Immaculate” is a new horror film from director Michael Mohan and writer Andrew Lobel. Star Sydney Sweeney demonstrates her horror acting prowess and burgeoning scream queen potential. “Immaculate” is about a young American woman, Cecelia, played by Sweeney, who joins a monastery in rural Italy.

The best thing about this film is the cinematography and set design. The eerie shots of Cecilia throughout the film, with her at the center, create a sense of fear as the others in the monastery become obsessed with her. Shots focused on Cecilia emphasize the enormous pressure she is under throughout the film, creating a sense of dissonance between her and the others in the monastery. The backdrops within the monastery itself and the scenery of the Italian countryside are visually stunning.

The film appears to be set sometime in the mid-20th century, but the isolated and archaic setting makes the time period quite unclear, leading to a feeling of disorientation among the audience. In a scene in the first act of the film, flashing red lights are used to create a sense of confusion and concern. The “Suspiria”-esque sequence is beautiful to watch.

Cecilia becomes pregnant through a supposedly immaculate conception and is celebrated as a saint by the monastery. A deeply chilling shot of Sweeney, adorned in the robe of Our Lady of Sorrows, standing on the church balcony, a single tear running down her cheek as a choir of nuns sing in Latin, is one of the film's best scenes .

There are references to several cult horror films, although mostly in style and tropes. Overall, the plot of “Immaculate” was quite predictable. Once you understand the forces at play, the film seems a bit formulaic. The use of jump scares is not exaggerated – with the caveat that they are fake jump scares, using loud noises and rapid flashes in place of something truly scary, just to get the audience's heart rate up. The plot and horror elements increase in intensity and culminate in a dramatic final scene.

The blood in “Immaculate” is another major plus point of the film. The use of both practical and CGI effects makes for some spooky scenes. These are completely tolerable for a seasoned horror watcher, but can be stomach-turning for the uninitiated.

The sound design of the choir as well as the screams that Sweeney performs at several points in the film – especially in the final scene – provide an incredibly goosebumps experience.

Despite a relatively simple plot, “Immaculate” is an entertaining watch. If you like dramatic cinematography, rare but intense gore, spooky religious imagery and mysterious twists, you'll like Immaculate. I rate it 3/5.