‘Immaculate’ and ‘Imaginary’ reviews: Twisted terror tropes 2

‘Immaculate’ and ‘Imaginary’ reviews: Twisted terror tropes

Here are mini-reviews of ‘Immaculate’ and ‘Imaginary.’
Fred Hawson | Apr 02 2024


Directed by Michael Mohan

Sister Cecilia (Sidney Sweeney) accepted an invitation from Fr. Sal Tedeschi (Alvaro Morte) to join a convent in Italy which offered hospice services to sick and dying nuns. One day, she was called in by the Mother Superior (Dora Romano), the Cardinal (Giorgio Colangeli) to answer accusations of impropriety with men. An ultrasound examination revealed that Cecilia was with child, but she claimed to be a virgin. 

Sidney Sweeney first gained prominence in HBO series "Euphoria" and "White Lotus," which earned her Emmy nominations for her acting work. For this 2024 alone, we've seen her in "Anyone But You," "Madame Web," and now this one, playing very different characters and genres.  At age 26, she worked as producer in two of her latest films, so it looks like this young lady is well on her way to becoming a serious filmmaker.  

Some of the most intense horror films have been Catholic-themed, most notably "The Exorcist" and "The Omen," in which Catholic rites and beliefs were played up to provide a creepy atmosphere and plot points. In this film, the mystery of the Virgin Birth (not the Immaculate Conception, mind you) was given a modern, pseudo-scientific spin, ultimately giving the whole film a sacrilegious overall vibe. Sweeney gave her all to that brutal, bloody, single-take childbirth finale until its abrupt fade-out. 


Directed by Jeff Wadlow

Jessica (DeWanda Wise) married a musician Max (Tom Payne) with two daughters: bitter teenager Taylor (Taegen Burns) and sweet curious Alice (Pyper Braun). Aside from problems getting along with the girls, Jessica was also troubled by nightmares about her mentally-ill father Ben (Samuel Salary). When they moved into Jessica's childhood home, Alice found an old teddy bear in the basement who became her imaginary friend Chauncey.

The imaginary friend of a child character has been a common trope in several famous horror films in the past, like "The Exorcist," "Poltergeist" to "Annabelle." The evil entity would possess an innocuous toy to get closer to a child, which it would then use to gain control of the family living in its house.  This vibe was very familiar here in "Imaginary" as well, although there some surprises along the way as the characters find themselves in a surreal maze of childhood horror.

Wise as Jess and child actress Braun as Alice both did well to maintain the likability of their respective characters. However Burns, as petulant eldest daughter Taylor, was certainly a very annoying character, as she kept fighting Jess and all her efforts to connect with her. It was very good to see Betty Buckley (70s "Eight is Enough" star and 80s Tony-winning original Grizabella) back on the big screen again as nosy neighbor Gloria.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, Fred Said.