Immaculate Is A Fast-Paced Horror Throwback

Sydney Sweeney in Immaculate.

Immaculate is a fast-paced horror throwback, one that is trapped in being a throwback.


In Immaculate, Cecilia (Sydney Sweeney) moves from the United States to a parish in Italy. There, she begins to settle in gaining new allies and enemies (Alvato Morate, Simona Tabasco, Benedetta Porcaroli) as she begins her new life as a Catholic Nun. But, soon after, she becomes mysteriously pregnant. This leads to Cecilia’s new home to quickly turn from a paradise into a prison-like nightmare.

Immaculate Is Held Back By the Past

With Immaculate, director Michael Moran and company crafts an old-school horror throwback. One that roots itself in major influences such as 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby. As a result, cinematographer Eliza Christian ushers the camera through the large Cathedral-like setting. Which shows off Adam Reamer’s incredible production design, where the set of the Italian parish feels massive and isolating. Also, displayed through the cinematography are the costumes. Courtesy of costume designer Francesa Maria Brunoli, the nuns and priests’ costumes all feel realistic. All of this – the cinematography, production design, and costumes – favors the tone, mood, and atmosphere of the film.

Director Michael Moran on the set of Immaculate.
Director Michael Moran on the set of Immaculate. Courtesy of Neon.

However, what makes Immaculate a fascinating watch, is its pacing. Running at 89 minutes, editor Christian Masini produces a fast pace taking time when needed for the story. But pacing the film along to never where an audience member would get bored. This becomes evident during the transition between the film’s first and second acts. It’s also a sharp contrast with films like Rosemary’s Baby, where that runs at 137 minutes. Characters and their motivations are easy to spell out. Even to argue, cliche to a certain extent.

This aspect of clich√© is where Andrew Lobel’s screenplay begins to falter. While it explores the ideas the ideas and failings of religious institutions, the script never goes beyond that. Instead, Lobel’s script only provides a surface-level examination of these themes. And this is only when the plot demands for it. That is not to say the editing is at fault here. But rather, the screenplay refuses to explore and engage with any other character beyond the main lead. That is unless the plot demands it.

Performances in Immaculate

Sydney Sweeney (center), Giulia Heathfield di Renzi (left), and Benedetta Porcaoli (right) in Immaculate.
Sydney Sweeney, Giulia Heathfield di Renzi, and Benedetta Porcaoli in Immaculate. Courtesy of Neon.

When it comes to the cast, most of them deliver solid performances. Starting with Sydney Sweeney, her take on Sister Cecilia, is remincient of Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby. Sweeney plays the character as naive, at first. But later on, becomes resilient. Which despite the film’s fast pace, mostly works as we want to see Cecilia get the hell out. A part of this is due to the film’s focus on her. Which unfortunately, leaves many of the supporting characters to the wayside.

An example of this is Sister Isabelle, played by Giulia Heathfield di Renzi. Renzi plays Isabelle as the exact opposite of Sweeney’s Cecilia. Cold, strict, and authoritative. Yet, has a bit of cunning. With this contrast, Renzi’s Isabelle becomes the second most interesting character in the film. However, the film refuses to explore this. Namely due to the quick pace of the film.

As for the rest of the cast, Alvarto Morate is an initially trusting figure as Father Sal Tedeschi. One with a very interesting backstory that leads to a very intense reveal later on. Meanwhile, Bendetta Porcaroli plays the best friend in Sister Gwen, an ally of Sister Cecilia. All of three deliver solid performances despite providing nothing more than an archetype.


Sydney Sweeney holding a candle in Immaculate.
Sydney Sweeney in Immaculate. Courtesy of Neon.

Overall, Immaculate is an old-school, fast-paced horror throwback. However, it cannot escape its old-school throwback roots. This is mainly due to a screenplay and editing that refuses to branch out beyond its cliched and archetypical nature. Which sadly, affects the performances led by a solid Sydney Sweeney. Had it branched off, Immaculate could have been a new horror classic. Along with those that it was inspired by.

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