SXSW 2024: Sydney Sweeney Fiercely Establishes Herself as the Latest Scream Queen in ‘Immaculate’ + An Inside Look at the World Premiere

1 April 2024 / by Nicole. Soroka
Immaculate Review
SXSW 2024: Sydney Sweeney Fiercely Establishes Herself as the Latest Scream Queen in ‘Immaculate’ + An Inside Look at the World Premiere
Director Michael Mohan is sure to shock audiences with his beautifully raw, intense horror flick, with Sweeney at the heart of it all.

In the holiest of places, a sinister secret is buried with the sisters who count on their faith to guide them to a safe life of worship. When one curious soul enters this masked sinful home, she is forced into living a life that she is made to believe is God’s purpose. What appears to be a miracle quickly takes a tragic turn for the worst, driving one innocent girl to believe in the greatest power possible: herself. 


Starring Sydney Sweeney, Álvaro Morte, Benedetta Porcaroli and Dora Romano, Immaculate is a terrifying, faith-based horror film, directed by Michael Mohan. Sweeney is also a producer on this film, along with David Bernad, Jonathan Davino, Teddy Schwarzman and Michael Heimler. This is certainly not Sweeney and Mohan’s first time joining forces, with the duo first collaborating on Everything Sucks (2017) and later with The Voyeurs (2021) being their first big-screen project. It is no surprise that with the passion and intensity that these two individuals enter their creation with, Immaculate is simply brilliant. 


In the quiet, serene Italian countryside lies a convent of devout nuns who spend their days tending to daily housekeeping chores, practicing their faith and looking after their aging sisters. When a young, American nun named Cecilia (Sweeney) arrives to take on her new role, it isn’t long before the dark secrets that lie within the home’s walls make themselves known to the young girl. As Cecilia finds herself in a situation she never could have imagined, the isolated sister must fight against all that is evil in order to survive. 


Before this film became what audiences can see on the big screen today, Sweeney first auditioned for a drastically different version of Immaculate in 2014, as a 16-year-old actress. During a conversation with Collider’s Perri Nemiroff at the 2024 South by Southwest festival, Sweeney shared that she and her team completely shifted the plot once she both bought and brought the project back to life.


“Originally, it was set in Ireland and there was a boarding school, and her parents died and she was sent to this boarding school, and then the basis of the groundwork is pretty much the same,” said Sweeney. 


Sweeney also shared what her favourite aspects were of portraying the young nun. “I think one of the most exciting parts of Cecilia was how innocent she was and where she goes at the end because she is on such an unexpected journey and she finds strength in herself that she has no idea she has and is forced to unlock,” said Sweeney.  


Immaculate had its world premiere on March 12 during the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. Prior to the screening, a choir of nun-dressed singers awed the audience with a melodic harmony. The singers were also joined by another group of nuns, wearing red facecloths, as seen in the film. With the Paramount Theatre packed to the brim, audience members shared equal feelings of fright and horror throughout the film. 


Immaculate premiere 2024
Photo courtesy of Nicole Soroka


Immaculate is an incredible modern-day horror film. The opening scene immediately provides an eerie, uneasy feeling. Though the film is exceedingly graphic and gory, the dark truth that Cecilia uncovers about her convent is considerably more haunting than the visual frights. While there are a number of mildly predictable jump scares scattered throughout the movie, the realism behind this storyline supersedes any repetitive feelings that these might impose. 


As many of the film’s cast and crew members have said, as well as plenty of movie-goers, the ending is truly something to be seen to be believed. Sweeney’s performance is nothing short of goosebump-inducing. Just when you think this film has shown it all, the final scene will throw audience members for a loop. It is absolutely heartbreaking and petrifying to say the very least. The camera angles that were used to film the scene provide a raw and intimate view of Cecilia’s moment of emotional and moral conflict. This scene becomes increasingly impressive when you learn that what you see in the film was the first and only take they shot. 


The scenery in this film is stunning. There is one particular scene where Sweeney is featured running through an open field, soaked in blisteringly red blood, and there are very few scenes in the horror genre that have struck me with such captivation. The stillness of the land, mixed with heart heart-pumping terror that Cecilia is facing while quite literally running for her life, is a visual experience unlike any other. The entirety of this film takes place in Italy, with the convent containing beautiful trinkets and decor. From candle-lit hallways to towering golden pillars, there truly is beauty in horror. 


Along with this, the use of costumes should not be lost on the audience. While the nuns are often seen wearing a simple black and white tunic, Cecilia’s light blue and gold dress, complete with a full veil and gold headpiece, is a symbolic turning point for her character’s story. When she is seen wearing this outfit, she is quickly thrown into a new chapter of her life. While she is being celebrated by her convent, Cecilia’s face indicates that in that moment, she feels anything but beauty and grace. 


Another element that adds to Immaculate’s sinister vibe is the score. From church bells to eerie hymns, the background music instantly evokes a sense of panic for Cecilia when the sound of imminent doom rings throughout the movie theatre. 


This movie is brilliantly crafted, with the filmmaker’s passion and heart lying at the centre of this horrifically terrifying story. 


You can catch Immaculate at your local Cineplex theatre today.