Immaculate: Blessed Are the Meek For They Shall Inherit the…Whatever the Hell This Is

17th Dallas International Film Festival

By Ben Bright

Salutations and Damnations!

I don’t know what I just watched but I’m sure I might be going to Hell for it.

I’ve been back in Dallas from SXSW in Austin for a few days ago and yesterday I decided to watch Immaculate at the Angelika Theatre.

One of you might ask, “Why Ben would you watch a movie that was showing at the historical Paramount Theatre on Congress Ave in Downtown Austin that your hotel is literally adjacent to and can see its beautiful classic marquee? I thought this was a big one on your list? You love scary movies. Why didn’t you see it there and why did you wait to get home and pay for it when you had a platinum badge? We trusted you!!! We depended on you to be one of the shining light voices from the ReelNewz team’s coverage of SXSW!!! Why did you lie to us!!!! How can we ever trust you again?”

And my retort to all of you my loyal readers and subjects, “You’re goddamn right that it was! It was hard penned into my calendar. I was very excited to see it. I was going to report back to you like a noble and trusted herald, but I dropped the ball on you guys and here is what happened”

So there are many genres of horror. A handful of examples would be slashers like Halloween and Scream, (fun), Elevated like Hereditary and The Lighthouse (informally defined by the esteemed Joe Bob Briggs as “horror for people who don’t like horror”), monster horror such as Frankenstein and The Thing(cool), and the one that gets to me…supernatural or religious horror the likes of The Exorcist and The Conjuring.

It might be because I went to Catholic school or the fact that I don’t believe in ghosts, my tremendous fear of the unknown of what, if anything, lies ahead of us once we shed our mortal coil, that makes me, in a rather contradictory way, gravitate towards the religious/supernatural genere.

When I was doing my research on what movies to see and ran across this, I was like “Oh Hell yeah! Lets do this!!!”. I was all in committed.

So the film is set to show at Tuesday, March 12th at 10:00 PM.  My friends and I are people watching from the hotel bar patio right next to the GLORIOUS Paramount Theatre marquee(fun fact about me.  I love classic theatre marquees and signs.  

The Majestic Theatre, The Inwood Theatre, and The Texas Theatre here in Dallas.  The Fox Theatre in Atlanta, and the Tivoli Theatre in Chattanooga, to list a few.   I find them magical and hypnotic to look at, so being right next to one while socializing in my element was a wonderful experience) and we’re having a good time, I’m chatting up some cute chick (Don’t hate.  I might be 44 but I still have game) and around 8 PM, a new friend of mine who I had made during the course of SXSW came up to us and said that we need to go get in line for Immaculate.  Now in my hubris, I proceeded to put down my Fresh Kicks Hazy IPA(shameless plug, a sponsorship would be nice) or mezcal ranchwater down and replied to him that it is a horror movie starting at 10, there wont be a line, it’ll be 30 minute wait tops.

Well that wasn’t the case, it was made clear to me that Sydney Sweeney(White Lotus, Euphoria) was doing red carpet and the line was around the block.  Apparently she’s a big deal.  So between having waited in line for Arcadian(Nicholas Cage) the day before, chatting up a cute girl, having fun with my friends,  taking in the entire experience, and it being approximately 8 or so, I was in no mood to wait in line.  So I looked to everyone and pretty much said, “fuck that” and the majority of us just stayed for the rest of the evening and watched the crowd from the balcony under the beautiful nighttime glow of the Paramount Theatre marquee

But enough of my story and on about the movie.

Immaculate follows a young novice, Sister Cecilia(Sydney Sweeney, Euphoria, White Lotus), travelling to a convent in Italy to take her final vows to become a nun.   She is met with kindness by the resident priest (Alvaro Morte, Money Heist, Wheel of time) but with hostility by the Mother Superior (Dora Romano, The Hand of God, L’ultima Festa) and another Nun, Sister Isabelle(Giulia Heatherfield Di Renzi with no other IMDb credits). 

It is also revealed that she chose to become a nun after surviving a childhood trauma that almost killed her.

Also she befriends a more free spirited nun, Sister Gwen (Benedatta Procaroli, Amanda, Perfect Strangers ) who is there for other reasons than to serveGod like her other sisters. After taking her vows, she goes to confession and immediately proceeds to begin having disturbing and graphic visons.

Later, while Sister Cecilia and the other nuns are bathing, she vomits and is taken to the resident physician where blood tests are run, and it appears that she is with child even though her hymen is intact being proof that she has never engaged in congress with a man in her life.  A sonogram is run, and it is proven that she is with a virgin pregnancy.  An indication of the 2nd coming. 

The story continues to progress over the next two trimesters where she is treated more as a vessel of the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ than an actual human being with an exponential growth of bizarre intensity and cruelty.

I cannot go into the third act without spoiling anything because the “nothing is as it seems” trope is dialed to 11 into bizarre madness and eventually dips it’s toe into being blatant sacrilege with a truly intense and disturbing climax ending with the screen going black for the credits

The film’s ideas and framework were great, and it captured disturbing imagery and I admire it for being bold enough to push the limits all the way into the taboo.

The problem with this though, is that with an 89 minute runtime and inconsistencies all over the place, it is clear that there was originally an NC-17 product here and the film was edited to death just to get an R rating and show in theatres.

Giving her credit’s due, Sydney Sweeney does give a good performance in the final act in one of the most shocking final scenes that I have ever seen on film in my entire life, but prior to the final act there is nothing unique to her performance.

I tried to love it and it is a movie that is definitely in my wheelhouse, but it feels like a missed opportunity. Personally, I believe that there is a cut out there that hasn’t been over edited in a poor manner and I would love to see it because in my opinion there is a great movie in there somewhere. Hopefully when it comes to Blu-ray, it will come with one of those “unrated director’s cuts” and we will be able to see what was originally envisioned from the beginning. Until then I don’t believe that we will ever know.

This is a NEON Pictures release with a distribution contract with Hulu so it will be on there eventually. So, I would sit this one out and wait until it is on Blu-ray or streaming on Hulu.

“And that”, in the immortal words of the late, great, Paul Harvey, “is rest of the story.”

15th Dallas International Film Festival