By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

‘Immaculate,’ and Sydney Sweeney the movie star

Sydney Sweeney auditioned for ‘Immaculate’ in 2014, but the movie went unmade. Sweeney bought the rights to the screenplay after her emergence from starring in ‘Euphoria,’ bringing the dead-in-the-water project back to life. (Photo courtesy NEON)

“Libs saw how the anti-woke crowd embraced Sydney Sweeney as their new darling and right away had to shove her in this blasphemous, satanic, feminist, pro-abortion, anti-life movie degrading christians! This movie also debases Mary, mother of the Christ!” read a post written by X (which I will refer to from here-on as Twitter) user @aurorafaced. The post has since been deleted. 

Something must be in the air, because it seems that the nunsploitation subgenre is back. Nunsploitation is a type of movie — typically horror adjacent — that takes the socially upheld position of a nun, and the Catholic or Christian church, and well, exploits it. Last year “The Nun II” was released by New Line Cinema as a part of their “Conjuring” franchise. I wasn’t a huge fan, but there were elements of it that I enjoyed. This weekend, “The First Omen” will be released by 20th Century Studios, which I anticipate greatly. 

Last weekend, NEON released “Immaculate” which is similarly infused with elements of nunsploitation. Following a young Catholic who moves to Italy from Detroit to pursue life as a nun only to be met with a church that is not as it seems, the Sydney Sweeney starring and produced film has been subject to much controversy, as demonstrated by the hilarious post that I included at the top. 

Sweeney has been claimed online by alt-right extremists as a movie star for them after her early March appearance on “Saturday Night Live!,” touting her as the killer of wokeness. Why? Well because she is a conventionally attractive white woman with blonde hair who is the antithesis of how our thinking of body image has changed over the last two decades. 

Suffice to say that crowd wasn’t aware that a movie where Sweeney plays a modern-day Virgin Mary — who may or may not be pregnant with the child of Jesus Christ, or something worse — was coming out later that month. 

“Immaculate” is awesome. I loved it. Is it a quote-unquote “Great movie?” No, but does it have to be? “Immaculate” serves as a great thrill ride with scenes that will sit with you for weeks, and a core performance from Sweeney that will surely reward repeat viewing. The scares are fantastic and gruesome, my buddy had to watch much of it through his fingers. The production design is eerie and constantly unsettling, painting the catholic church as a place to be feared and tip-toed through. And Sweeney is — pun absolutely intended — immaculate. She plays into her strengths greatly, culminating in a bone-chilling final scene. 

Even so, “Immaculate” has a lot more on its mind than just gore and scares. At its core the movie deals with fighting for possession of your own body (Timely!), trusting those in power (Timely!) and oppression from the church (Timely!). The movie does a good job balancing the thematic center with the harsh horror, often interweaving the two which makes for some truly impactful scenes — especially during the final act — that are viscerally upsetting. 

All of this makes me sure that “Immaculate” will be remembered as something that I like to call a midnight classic; a movie that is perfect to throw on with your buddies at midnight on a saturday. There are three key factors that make a midnight classic for me. One; it needs to be good. Check in this case. Two; it needs to be fun. I don’t wanna be up at midnight and watch something that’s really talky. Check for “Immaculate.” Three; it needs to be short! This is arguably the most important qualifier. I’m not throwing on a three hour movie at midnight, I need something short, sweet and exciting. Check again for “Immaculate.” 

This movie is the current culmination of Sydney Sweeney’s tenure as a movie star, and I think that she has done a fantastic job at navigating that role so far. She’s made the right choice at pretty much every turn so far besides one key misfire. Her career really began in 2018, where she was a part of three of the biggest TV shows of the year: “Everything Sucks!,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Sharp Objects.” The next year is when she explodes, being cast as one of the members of the Manson family in my favorite movie “Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood,” and starring as one of the main characters on HBO’s “Euphoria.”

Since then her career has taken off like a rocket ship and she hasn’t looked back, and after starring in another HBO show “The White Lotus,” Sweeney has fully shifted gears to full-fledged movie stardom, and her last three choices really show the full spectrum of what this choice will have in store for her. 

At the end of last year, she starred alongside another up-and-coming superstar Glen Powell in “Anyone But You,” which made over $200 million at the worldwide box office, becoming the most successful rom-com in years. In my mind, this was her arrival to A-list status. It’s one thing to be a part of an HBO ensemble, or have a minor role in a Quentin Tarantino movie. It’s another to headline one of the biggest movies of the year. 

Her next movie came out shortly after, the much-maligned “Madame Web,” which I have not seen. While some perceived this as a poor career move, can anyone blame her for signing up for a “Spider-Man” adjacent movie multiple years ago when it seemed like comic book movies were the future of film? She wasn’t the star, just one of the side characters, which might have helped soften this blow for her. 

And now, “Immaculate.” Which certifies her not only as a movie star, but as a movie star that can genre-hop. Sweeney produced “Immaculate,” which she auditioned for ten years ago, but quickly entered development hell. She went back and bought the rights to the script from the film’s original writer, and produced it herself, with him fully credited. 

If Sweeney is somebody who can recognize an interesting project when she sees it, and has the clout to get it made herself, then I am more than thrilled to see what she does with the rest of her career. And in an era where some claim that the “movie star” is a dead concept, it makes me happy to see someone taking this position and running with it. 

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