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A New Scream Queen Rises


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By: Isaac P. Ale
March 28, 2024

Immaculate Directed by Michael Mohan Immaculate [2024]

Film

10 years in the making is usually something brought up when we're talking about auteur passion projects like Martin Scorsese's Silence (28 years give or take). Or how long it takes for Daniel Day Lewis to finally get out of character.

But rarely does "double digit years in the making" come with a modest $9 million budget horror film. Let alone, the person that's been wanting to make the movie for this long only being 26 years old. Now that I'm saying it, has this ever happened before? If not, then leave it to Sydney Sweeney to audition for a role in whatever Immaculate was when she was 16, only for her to not get the role and the movie not actually be made. Fast forward however many years and Sweeney was unable to stop thinking about the role, or the film, and set out to find out what had happened to it. Tracking down writer Andrew Lobel, who was able to rework the script, and bringing in financiers and producers along with director Michael Mohan (whom had worked with Sweeney on Voyeurs) Sweeney was able to bring this horror idea to fruition.

It's remarkable to watch Sweeney's ascent not only in her performances across major shows and films but also the business side of filmmaking. She has built a production company, Fifty-Fifty Films, and even has a producing credit on her box office smashing rom-com with Glen Powell, Anyone But You.

Of course Sweeney isn't the only person that carried the production of the film across the finish line, and this team of people have done something bloody great in Immaculate.

Right out of the gate the film establishes its giallo influences with a gorgeous Italian backdrop, mysterious lighting through a congregation of fog along with what appears to be some supernatural or fiction thriller elements. The score, full of melodic strings that are just plucky enough to disturb, carry you, willfully or not, through the creepy world of an esteemed Italian convent which Cecilia (Sweeney) is about to join. Recruited from America, after her local church closed, Cecilia is as bright eyed and bushy tailed as can be to officially become Sister Cecilia, and take her place in the ranks of her new family.

Sydney Sweeney in Immaculate Immaculate [2024]

While Sweeney's production of Immaculate is an achievement in of itself, her performance is even a step further. Into the realm of incredible. Showcasing some horror elements in an episode or two of Euphoria it was clear that Sweeney could not only flip the switch to venture to a darker psyche, but also command the physicality these roles often require. Speaking in a soft calming tone during the lulls of the film disarms our suspicions of what's occurring around her. On the flip side, the jumps work incredibly well. Often causing a shock to run through the body. Sure, Immaculate doesn't have any ground breaking scares or novelties you haven't seen before. But what it does best is keep you guessing and circumvent your preconceived notions of where the jump is coming from.

The concluding paragraph of Sweeney's horror thesis is where she solidifies herself as a bonafide scream queen. Her physical presence, dedication and how it wraps up a tight 89 minute film is pure performing prowess. Mohan's focus on closeup shots, especially in this finale, establish a phenomenal ambience that is as awe inspiring as it is horrifying. You might want to look away. But you simply cannot help yourself, you've been caught in Sweeney and Mohan's spell of watching Cecilia's fate through the end. Which might be a bit more credit to Sweeney and her terrific acting.

Thinking about what this movie could've been ten years ago to what it is now adds to the terror it elicits. In a post Roe v. Wade world, Immaculate offers horrifying commentary on women's body autonomy and objectification. "What a waste" bemoans an Italian customs agent as he and his partner comment on the beauty of Cecilia in front of them, as she is on her way to make her vows of piety, poverty and chastity. The stamp of her passport sounding like a gavel, as if her fate had already been determined. Combined with the disturbing final scene, Immaculate knows very well what its trying to achieve and does so at a brisk runtime that perfectly suits the swift intensity of its premise. Along with the, dare I say, immaculate performance from Sweeney.

Froth

Almost by default, if I'm watching a fucked up horror film that's dark, gritty, and has a fair share of bloody gore I go with a tried and true brewery. A brewery that understands a good religious motif. That's a dark as hell beer to go with a dark as hell movie. As an added bonus I also get some fun names that are applicable. The brewery I'm referring to is Holy Mountain Brewing which makes some of the best beer in Seattle! Perfect for Immaculate is their Imperial Oatmeal Milk Stout, Plague of Angels. A movie with evil nuns? Bloody brilliant ending? Violent evangelism? Well that just sounds like a Plague of Angels doesn't it?

The Plague of Angels is about as dark as the film itself. Coming off as a foreboding darkness rich with sweet aromas of licorice, roasted malt and coffee. A smooth drink that tastes of coffee, that roasted malt goodness along with some toffee, chocolate and nuttiness to bring home a sweet full bodied finish. With a blistering 9.8% ABV the beer doesn't taste near as boozy as you'd expect and is overall incredibly easy to drink. Of course I wouldn't expect anything less from Holy Mountain Brewing!

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