Immaculate review: Sydney Sweeney is charismatic in disgustingly good scoop-their-eyeballs-out horror

One of the current buzziest young stars is as game as they come in a romp that allows few breaths to be taken

    
Director: Michael Mohan
Cert: 16
Starring: Sydney Sweeney, Álvaro Morte, Benedetta Porcaroli, Simona Tabasco, Giorgio Colangeli, Giulia Heathfield Di Renzi
Running Time: 1 hr 28 mins

Following the overheated – sometimes plain lurid – coverage of Sydney Sweeney’s dizzying ascension, one could be forgiven for worrying about our era’s buzziest young star appearing in what sounds like a nunsploitation flick. Tastelessly sexist comments greet young Sr Cecilia as she arrives from Michigan at an Italian convent of the old school. One or two senior clerics cast looks that could be described as hungry. It feels a bit worryingly Sex Nuns of St Pervoso.

Fear not. Immaculate is certainly disgusting, but only in a good old-fashioned scoop-their-eyeballs-out fashion. The convent, essentially a hospice for stricken sisters, offers up the odd jump scare as Cecilia, comforted by Álvaro Morte’s scientist priest, comes under closer scrutiny than feels comfortable. A medical examination eventually reveals that, despite arriving and remaining a virgin, she is with healthy child. Unsurprisingly, this elevates her status somewhat.

We are obliged to point out (so other bar bores don’t have to) that, despite what the title and a few lines here imply, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception has nothing to do with sex or with the conception of Christ. Such theological infelicities do nothing to get in the way of a plot that careers at sickening pace towards an outrageously satisfying catharsis. Trimming looks to have worked a few holes into the nimble plot. Better that than too much slack baggage.

The location, opening scenario and deceptive period – I believed we were in the 1970s until a mobile phone rang – point towards the Italian films of Dario Argento. Immaculate is not nearly so rich or so resonant. Michael Mohan’s romp is, however, at home to a fierce economy that allows few breaths to be taken. It would be nothing without a charismatic star at its heart.


Sweeney is certainly that – and, as the final shot confirms, she is as game as they come. Nun more fun.

Immaculate is in cinemas from Friday, March 22nd

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist