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‘Immaculate’ review: Dir. Michael Mohan (2024)

Nuns and horror movies are popular bedfellows, with Michael Mohan’s Immaculate the latest genre film to marry the two. The project is a passion piece for its lead, Sydney Sweeney, who after believing in the script so much, signed on as a producer, determined to get it made. She then took the script to Mohan, her director in The Voyeurs, and the two embarked on this new collaboration together. 

After an exciting cold open in which a young nurse is seen fleeing her convent in the dead of night, Immaculate joins Sister Cecilia. Cecilia is an American nun-in-waiting who travels to Italy after being headhunted by charismatic priest, Father Sal Tedeschi (Álvaro Morte). There she performs her vows and becomes a fully fledged sister, tasked with looking after the convent’s elderly quadrant. However, after just a few weeks, Cecilia discovers that she is pregnant, despite never having had sex. Believing that she is the mother of the second coming of Christ, Cecilia is worshipped by those around her, but is everything as it seems, and if not, what is growing inside her?

As nun-based horror goes, Immaculate is a step in the right direction, at least in terms of what the studios have been churning out recently. This is as far removed from The Nun films as can be, which will be a relief to many. Granted, both sets of films are riddled with jump scares, but those found in Immaculate unfold in a more elegant and less contrived manner. 

Through her performance, it is clear that this is a project and character close to Sweeney’s heart. Given her more overtly sexual roles, such as in her previous collaboration with Mohan, some will be perplexed and disappointed to see her clad in a habit. This is addressed early on in the film itself, the Italian immigration police commenting on how ‘it’s a waste’ for someone that looks like her to be a nun. With the Internet currently obsessed with making comments about Sweeney’s body, this inclusion feels like a calculated nod to a certain type of viewer. Her character’s lack of vanity though, is one of her strong suits. Cecilia is a genuinely kind person who believes wholeheartedly in her calling. This set-up is paramount as it then becomes fascinating to see her ideals challenged. 

Sweeney commits 110% to Cecilia and, in doing so, forges a character that the audience are instantly drawn to. That she is not a stupid character is welcome and watching her metamorphosize from timid mouse to something far stronger is compelling. Given Cecilia’s pregnancy, her story is overtly feminine. Sweeney channels the angst felt by first-time mothers across the globe, instantly connecting to anyone that has birthed a child. A fascinating component of the story is that several moments of ‘body horror’ are actually experiences that are quite common during pregnancy. That Cecilia believes otherwise, highlights just how misinformed many first-time mothers are on the changes in their bodies. 

As incredible as Sweeney’s performance is, it is not quite enough to detract from the fairly predictable story. If the viewer pays enough attention, it becomes obvious early on exactly what is happening, as well as the how. There is also a throwaway line that screams this location will become important later and gives away that part of the final act. The predictability doesn’t cause too much harm, but will leave those familiar with this subgenre a little disappointed. Immaculate does throw the viewer off course as to how it ends however. The conclusion is brutal and brave, and is certain to shock the more casual horror audience watching. Similarly, the amount of blood will be a touch too far for the squeamish as Mohan throws it around with abandon. 

An important positive to note about Immaculate is its super short run time. The whole film, credits included, clocks in at just under ninety minutes. Although historically, horror films tend to be short, Immaculate’s religious focused peers are often long. Other films within the subgenre tend to be slow paced, the tension drawn out and out. Here, Mohan hits the ground running. Immaculate is a punchily paced feature that doesn’t hesitate too long on any one component. The decision might turn off purists, but it does at least demonstrate that Mohan is happy to approach the familiar tale from a different perspective.

Throughout Immaculate, characters continually quote the bible line “blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the Earth,” whilst the film consistently swerves any attempt to be meek. Mohan directs with gusto, the production design is gorgeous and elicits an out of time sensation, and Sweeney gives a commanding performance. All combine to produce a film not ready to go quietly into the night, and whilst some aspects feel overly familiar, Immaculate is a great gateway into religious horror for the newly anointed genre fan. 


Kat Hughes



A blood-soaked Sydney Sweeney makes some bold decisions in Michael Mohan’s fast-paced exploration of women’s bodies, faith, and how one seeks to control over another. 


Immaculate arrives in cinemas across the UK from Friday 22nd March 2024.

Kat Hughes is a UK born film critic and interviewer who has a passion for horror films. An editor for THN, Kat is also a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic. She has bylines with Ghouls Magazine, Arrow Video, Film Stories, Certified Forgotten and FILMHOUNDS and has had essays published in home entertainment releases by Vinegar Syndrome and Second Sight. When not writing about horror, Kat hosts micro podcast Movies with Mummy along with her five-year-old daughter.


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