“Immaculate” : A Horror Movie That Really Goes Nowhere

“Immaculate” : A Horror Movie That Really Goes Nowhere
Courtesy of NEON

©Courtesy of Neon

Hail to Mario Bava! Long live Lucio Fulci!

After Quentin Tarantino declaring his love for their movies in every possible way, and James Wan and Edgar Wright recently paid their personal tribute to the glorious season of Italian horror B-movies with Malignant and Last Night in Soho, the upcoming Immaculate starred (and co-produced) by Sydney Sweeney pushed even further the homage setting the story in Italy ad using all the tools and tricks of a low-budget movie the way the legendary Italian directors did.

The story of Immaculate follows Cecilia, a young and innocent novice arriving in an old countryside convent where she’s welcomed to join the other nuns. The woman bonds especially with the other young novice Guendalina and with the priest of the convent, Father Sal. Soon strange and terrifying events start to happen, the most inexplicable of all being Cecilia discovering she is pregnant…

The love and knowledge of the history of horror cinema is definitely not enough if you don’t really have something to say exploring the genre, using the inputs and styles of past masterpieces in order to find your own voice. That’s what happens with Immaculate: screenwriter Andrew Lobel and director Michael Mohan – who previously worked with Sydney Sweeney in 2011 making Voyeurs – seem to be way more eager to show their homage to the past than actually create a solid plot.

This way Immaculate develops a story which pretty soon becomes a lame mix between The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby, with brief splashes of Midsommar by Ari Aster and (this truly hurts…) The Shining by Stanley Kubrick. But what about anything new to say? Any plot twist or visual touch capable of giving a sprinkle of originality? Nowhere to be found…

As we wrote at the beginning of this review, Mohan mostly focuses on recreating the atmospheres and the “cheap” but effective aesthetic of Italian horrors from the ‘60 and ‘70. The cinematographer Elisha Christian (Voyeurs, The Night House) is remarkably capable to use the absence of light in order to develop scaring images, while the director adds a couple of scenes in which the gory effects are clearly realized in a old-style way, in order to make them look like artisanal.

That is actually the best part of Immaculate, looking at the blood and thinking about the times in which you could see it was actually tomato sauce or something like that. If only Mohan and Sobel would have pushed this aspect of their movie even further, perhaps making it so crazy to turn into a paroxysmal comedy, maybe that could have worked. Instead Immaculate seems to unfortunately take itself seriously, creating this way an emptiness which scene after scene turns to boredom. 

Courtesy of NEON
©Courtesy of NEON

What works even less is then the “sexualization” of the main character, the attempt to mix innocence and lust the way Bava and especially Fulci did back in the years. In the second part of the movie the viewers can see Sydney Sweeney wearing basically only the classic see-through white nightgown, which of course in the final showdown gets over and over splashed with her and other characters’ blood. This explicit union of Eros and Thanatos worked decades ago, when movies and their role in another kind of society were quite different. Right now, it feels like just a cheap and naive trick…

A horror movie can go wrong in so many ways that in the end could make it still weirdly enjoyable: going too much over the top with effects, cheap thrills, slapstick parody and so on. Genre aficionados know that pretty well. The only thing that must be avoided is the lack of trying which slips into something boring. Immaculate contains some ideas that in the end never become a cohesive ensemble, resulting in a never ending sequence of scenes that the audience already saw in many other, way better movies. Sydney Sweeney struggles, cries, eventually fights back. But we don’t really care for her character or her fate, mostly because we are a little too bored to achieve some empathy…

Rating: D

Check out more of Adriano’s articles. 

Here’s the trailer of the film.


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