Sydney Sweeney stars in a scene from the movie "Immaculate." (OSV News photo/Neon)

NEW YORK (OSV News) – A large part of the inspiration for, and popularity of, a certain subgenre of the Gothic novel dealing with unseemly Church life can be traced to the ever-reliable anti-Catholic prejudices of the British public from the Reformation onward. Such page turners depict hidden ecclesiastical corruption and other dark secrets with gusto.

“Aren’t we glad that sort of thing doesn’t go on here?” one can almost hear the original readers of such works sighing with titillated satisfaction.

A similar sense of blinkered rejection and smug relief may be detected in “Immaculate” (Neon), a vile piece of horror tripe from director Michael Mohan. In this case, however, the viewpoint is entirely secular rather than Protestant while the animus is more broadly anti-Christian.

Since stupidity vies with bigotry for predominance as the proceedings unfold – and since the crackpots who populate the screen bear no resemblance whatsoever to real-life Catholics, beyond the priestly and religious garb they wear – it’s tempting to dismiss the whole production out of hand. The presence of a pro-abortion subtext, however, demands attention.

Sydney Sweeney plays Sister Cecilia, an American novice in a sinister Italian convent. How did she end up there? Well, her home parish closed for lack of attendance and, rather than simply go to the next church over, she felt the need to cross the Atlantic to find a new spiritual home. This is typical of the reasoning on display in Andrew Lobel’s nonsensical script.

Sister Cecilia, we’re informed, is a vulnerable individual, having had a near-death drowning experience in childhood. So was it really by accident that Father Sal (Álvaro Morte), the nunnery’s shady chaplain, reached out to her across the billowy waves? The question, of course, answers itself.

Much to her bewilderment, being a virgo intacta, a routine medical test soon shows that Sister Cecilia is pregnant. This is celebrated by all concerned as a miracle, and we next see the good sister decked out as a living statue of the Blessed Mother.

As the title hints, Lobel and his collaborators perpetuate the widespread confusion between the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the virginal conception of Jesus. This feeds into their implicit thesis that the Church hates sex and wants to control womens’ bodies.

Mohan, on the other hand, doesn’t mind sex at all and clearly doesn’t think his viewers do either. Thus we’re treated to a scene in which skimpily clad young nuns cavort in a communal bathtub as well as another in which a nude Sister Cecilia, seen in profile, gets an uncomfortable scrub down in the shower after making a break for it.

That her escape is a bid for bodily autonomy is one of the few points of clarity amid the increasingly warped – and ultimately jaw-droppingly absurd – thinking that explains what’s really going on. Suffice it to say that, in Father Sal’s humble opinion, God’s first attempt at redeeming the human race didn’t take, so we need Baby Jesus redux.

Well, no, as a matter of fact, we don’t. Nor do we need “Immaculate.”

The film contains blasphemy, sacrilegious jokes, gory violence, including torture and infanticide, grisly images, partial upper female nudity, sexual humor, at least one use of profanity, a couple of milder oaths and fleeting rough, crude and crass language. The OSV News classification is O – morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.


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