Sydney Sweeney Earns Scream Queen Crown in ‘Immaculate’

This past week, the anticipated horror, ‘Immaculate’ had its theatrical release nationwide. After the initial premiere at South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, the film was met with a mix of reviews but a positive response overall. No matter what one may think of the film, ‘Immaculate’ has transformed producer and leading actor, Sydney Sweeney, into a scream queen for the new generation.

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PASSION PROJECT
The background of the creation of the film is immaculate in itself, as Sydney Sweeney is a producer of the film. In 2014, Sweeney auditioned for the project at the age of sixteen, vying for this role especially. However, this draft of the film was never made, and ‘Immaculate’ was shelved. Sweeney states “It was a very different draft. I called the writer, Andrew Lobel, and got the clean, original draft, then reworked it to fit who I am today, keeping a lot of the same themes and storylines. And one of the biggest ones that carried over was something innately in the project that, sadly, is still a topic of discussion today.” Sweeney even was able to cast her grandmothers as extras in the film, to pay homage to the women who made an impact in her life and upbringing.

In 2022, while Season 2 of the hit show ‘Euphoria’ was hitting the television screens, fans were calling for Sweeney to star in horror films. Her chaotic and bewildered portrayal of her character, Cassie, was a contrast from the meek and sweet versions of the character that fans had seen from her in the past. It’s no wonder that fans and Sweney herself were ready for her to take on darker roles.

‘Immaculate’ tells the story of Cecilia, a young nun who joins a convent in Italy. While she is received warmly in the convent, things turn sinister after she discovers she is pregnant. The movie is described as ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ meets ‘The Nun’, but is unique in its own sense and different from other horror films on our screens. We meet different characters such as the Priest, Cardinal, and Reverend Mother that you would see in any convent, as well as Sister Gwen, the rebellious nun that befriends Cecilia, and Sister Mary, who holds disdain against Cecilia. The characters and their thoughts of Cecilia’s situation provide an interesting mix of personalities that give the film a memorable strength.

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SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Personally, I found the film hard to watch, and for no other reason other than the fact that this film is not for the squeamish. If you are a viewer who struggles with jumpscares, blood, gore, and childbirth scenes, ‘Immaculate’ might not be for you. The opening scene was particularly uncomfortable, as it opens with a nun being buried alive. It is best to see this film with a friend.

Other than the violence, I thought that the film was a solid look on womanhood and religion. Some moments truly touched me and shocked me as a viewer, such as a scene in which train inspectors are commenting on Cecilia’s decision to become a nun is “such a waste”. The film is such an interesting way to bring up the conversation of a woman’s bodily autonomy and her right to make her own choices in life. 

 

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Another scene that stood out to me was Sister Mary’s commentary to Cecilia. When Sister Mary shows Cecilia around the convent, she keeps giving her outs to leave. Sister Mary even comments that Cecilia should not be there “to find herself”, even though that is not the reason that she decided to join the convent. The constant ways that Sister Mary gives Cecilia “outs” to leave the convent seems offensive to Cecilia in the time, as there have already been comments about how she should not join the church. However, Sister Mary’s motives and hints make more sense as Cecilia realizes her need to escape.

Even with these touching moments, there were a lot of unanswered questions. We don’t learn how Cecilia’s baby was actually conceived, whether it was a demon in savior’s clothing, nor what some characters mean from cryptic dialogue. However, the unanswered questions in this film put us in Cecilia’s shoes and show us where her head is at throughout the film. The audience doesn’t need to be spoon-fed answers, as we are able to make our own conclusions and interpretations throughout the film much like the protagonist. Though the film does tend to rely on shock value and jump scares, I still thought that the storyline was a unique interpretation and look into a woman’s autonomy.

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SYDNEY SCREAM-EY

Sydney Sweeney’s performance demonstrates a new side of her. In ‘Immaculate’, we still see the sweet side of Sweeney that we are used to from past projects, such as ‘The White Lotus’ or ‘Anyone But You’. However, we get to see Sweeney fight back in this role. Her character, Cecilia, begins the film as a meek and mild nun, but as the film progresses, so does her character. Sometimes in horror films, female leads tend to be passive, allowing events to happen to them. In the case of ‘Immaculate’, Cecilia is able to make her own decisions and create events and conflicts in order to drive herself forward. Sweeney’s performance captures a new light on her own acting range and that of a female horror lead.

While Sweeney’s character is a victim, she does not play the victim in this story. The character is smart, contrasting with other horror leads where the audience is screaming at the screen for them to make a move. Where there are some moments where you wish the character would just move, we are able to see a horror lead that is making leaps and bounds to control her own future and destiny. I applaud the creative team and Sweeney for pushing her character in this way.

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FINAL THOUGHTS
‘Immaculate’ is a shocking and unique horror story that has something important to add to the conversation about women’s autonomy and rights. Though many scenes are shocking and disturbing for many viewers, ‘Immaculate’ is well worth the watch.

Cast: Sydney Sweeney, Álvaro Morte, Benedetta Porcaroli, Dora Romano, Simona Tabasco, Giorgio Colangeli | Director: Michael Mohan| Writer: Andrew Lobel | Producers: Sydney Sweeney, Jonathan Davino, David Bernad, Teddy Schwarzman, Michael Heimler | Cinematography: Elisha Christian | Editing: Christian Masini

By Abigail Johnson

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