Immaculate (dir. Michael Mohan)

By: Adam Freed

It's hard to imagine a young actress having a more noteworthy year than the one being experienced by Sydney Sweeney.  Say what one may about her perceived shortcomings as a performer, the range and courage demonstrated by the young star’s choices in the last twelve months is commendable.  First was her genre rejuvenating romantic comedy Anyone But You (2023), followed by the expensive and much maligned Madame Web and now, director Michael Mohan’s religious genre horror Immaculate.  To be clear, none of the three aforementioned films meet the highest standards of cinematic excellence, but worthy of note is that Sweeney, who very well could settle into the financial comforts of being typecast, has fought against the urge to rely on her physical allure and instead has chosen to openly explore the boundaries of her control as an actress.  Stars are not often solidified at such a young age, and for Sweeney, her free spirited approach to her pursuits may be the secret to her eventual longevity.

Paramount to the moderate success Immaculate achieves is Sweeney’s ability to disappear into an unglamorous role, one nearly void of the trappings most readily identified with her as a performer.  As Sister Cecilia, Sweeney embodies a young American nun who has traveled to a picturesque convent set just outside of Rome in search of a new foothold in her religious calling.  The film’s distinctly Italian setting and cast bathe Michael Mohan’s film in a much-needed authenticity which transforms a ridiculous premise into a film that is both tolerable and hauntingly tangible.

The greatest gift that Immaculate bestows upon audiences and its star, is that it places Sweeney in a position to play to her strengths.  Sydney Sweeney is never more convincing as a performer than when her emotional cup runneth over. To this end, her performance and the film’s success, run parallel in their growth as the Roman convent metastasizes into a chaotic and nightmarish prison.  In short, Immaculate gets far better as Cecilia’s situation gets worse.  By avoiding many of the traditional trappings of modern horror, Mohan makes space for his film’s pursuit of its more devilish designs.  Although the final act is certainly impactful enough to outrage some audience members, one cannot help but walk out of Immaculate feeling a modicum of disappointment as the film’s payoff only partially legitimizes a concept far more terrifying than its execution. 

Target Score 5.5/10: Immaculate succeeds by placing Sydney Sweeney in a position to weaponize the strength of her raw nerve energy.  Despite being set against the hauntingly gorgeous backdrop of rural Rome, Michael Mohan’s final product is far too lean to maximize its conceptualized potential.