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Bob Hoose

Movie Review

Cecilia died when she was a girl. At 12, she fell through the ice on a not-quite-frozen lake and drowned. Fortunately, the resuscitating efforts of her rescuers brought her back.

Cecilia, however, walked away convinced that God had saved her. She was sure that He wanted to use her life in some special way. She just didn’t yet know what that special purpose was. So, in the years since, she’s become a nun and dedicated herself, body and soul, to the church.

Now, Sister Cecilia has been transferred to an ancient convent in Italy. In a way it’s an odd assignment, because she doesn’t speak a word of Italian. But if this is how God wants to use her—caring for elderly and infirm nuns in the waning days of their lives—then she is happy to be moved by His hand.

Then, the young novitiate is revealed to be decidedly pregnant.

Cecilia is, of course, shocked: she has obeyed her vows of chastity completely. She’s never sexually been with a man in her life. But the ultrasound proves that she is, in fact, with child. And suddenly, the older nuns begin standing when she walks into a room; they gaze at her adoringly; they call her blessed.

Something doesn’t feel right, though.

The church can call her situation miraculous. They can proclaim that this is the purpose God has called her to. But Cecilia can’t help but feel that it’s all wrong. There’s something very evil afoot.

It’s so evil, in fact, that dying in a partially frozen lake might have been the better course.

Positive Elements

Initially, Cecilia is completely devout, and she prayerfully approaches every aspect of her new life at the convent. She cleans and cares for the many elderly nuns with a giving and sincere heart. (With time and bitter travails, however, the young woman’s praying stops. And she completely turns from her faith.)

Spiritual Elements

The Catholic convent that Cecilia is transferred to was established in 1632.It’s a large vaulted ceilinged building that’s regularly filled with the melodious voices of the gathered elderly nuns. They lift up hymns of praise in Italian. We also hear the priests and nuns praying in Italian, speaking in spiritual terms about God and the Holy Spirit, and asking for blessings for others.

When Cecilia first arrives at the convent with other young nuns, she’s called upon to recite vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. And, as mentioned, we hear her praying regularly in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And when Cecilia unexpectedly starts being sick in the morning and is discovered to be pregnant, the church’s authority figures declare it a miracle from God’s hand. “This child was conceived without sin,” the local Cardinal proclaims.

In fact, the film suggests initially that there are indeed some very supernatural things happening in and around the convent. Mysterious nuns wearing red cloth masks begin to appear, giving the impression that they are more spirit than flesh. But with time we come to see that there is nothing spiritual about any of it.

Cecilia finds Italian written on a wall and hidden behind a painting. It includes a reference to 2 Corinthians 11:14, “For Satan himself often masquerades as an angel of light.” At one point, Cecilia declares to someone, “This is not God’s work!” That individual replies, “If this is not the will of God, why does God not stop us?”

Sexual Content

We see Cecilia, pregnant and dressed in fairly skimpy underwear, being sick. She and other young nuns dressed in sheer shifts bathe together. The fabric does little to conceal their bare flesh beneath. And as Cecilia’s pregnancy grows more pronounced, it’s easy to see that she isn’t wearing underwear beneath her nightgown.

A very pregnant Cecilia is roughly shoved into a shower where she stands fully naked, clutching and covering her breasts.

Violent Content

[The following section contains major spoilers]

A young nun is chased down while trying to run away. Her leg is yanked back through a large metal gate and viciously snapped, the bone protruding. She’s then buried alive.

Someone’s head and face are repeatedly smashed with a large metal cross. We watch as the bone and tissue are reduced to mush. A man is set on fire, but survives, his flesh crisped and bloody. A sister falls from a great height, landing face first on the cobblestone below. The camera gazes closely at her gruesome, pulped face. Cecilia dreams of being grabbed violently by a nun and stabbed in the stomach.

Cecilia’s feet are branded by a red-hot poker in the shape of a cross. We then see the bloody aftermath wrapped in gauze. Someone has their tongue forcefully pulled out and cut off with a large blade to bloody effects. (We later see this person’s rotting corpse.) Cecilia is pinned down while her stomach is cut open by a scalpel blade. She then jams a large metal nail into her attacker’s throat.

A woman in labor screams through the excruciating pain until her newborn baby drops to the ground. She then severs the umbilical cord using her teeth and crushes the infant with a large stone.

A young girl falls into icy cold water, and we see her screaming beneath the clear ice as she drowns. Someone attempts to drown the Cecilia, leaving behind finger shaped bruises on her neck.

A nun chops the head off a chicken. Later, another chicken is killed, and its blood is drained out. A bird smashes into a window, leaving a bloody splat behind.

Cecilia vomits and loses a tooth in the process. She also pulls off her own bloody fingernail.

Crude or Profane Language

In English, we hear two f-words and several misuses of God’s name (one used in combination with the word “d–n”). Two more f-words and a single use each of “b–ch” and “bulls–t” are spat out in Italian, with English subtitles.

Drug and Alcohol Content

After the nuns and priests gather for the novitiate vows, they all dine together and drink wine. A priest mentions to Cecilia that his two cups may have gone to his head. Later, Cecilia passes out, and it’s implied that it may have been from the effects of the wine as well.

A doctor moves to give Cecilia a shot for her discomfort, but he never does so.

Several different people—police officers, sisters and priests—smoke cigarettes on a regular basis.

Other Negative Elements

A nun walks in on Cecilia while she’s using the toilet (covered by a skirt). Cecilia gets ill and vomits toward the camera. We see a young nun brusquely demonstrate how to clean up the “feces” of an incontinent elderly nun.


Other than cinema directly made for the Christian community, horror seems to be the Hollywood movie genre that comes the closest to presenting a Christian worldview. At the very least, movies of that stripe suggest that spirituality and good and evil are very much a part of our lives.

So, you might expect that Immaculate, a film that focuses on a young virgin nun who finds herself “miraculously” pregnant in the present day, would speak to things of faith. And it does. Just not in the way you might expect.

In fact, Immaculate falls more easily into the category of “nunsploitation” than horror. It’s more of an allegorical commentary on religion and all its evils, specifically in the Catholic church, than anything else.

There are horrible things on display, to be sure. But by the time we reach the film’s misogynistically agonizing and exceedingly bloody finale, it’s very clear that the filmmakers aren’t trying to wrestle with the supernatural. They’re declaring a different belief: that religion needs to become extinct.

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Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.