(director: Michael Mohan; screenwriter: Andrew Lobel; cinematographer: Christian Masini; editor: Christian Masini; music: Will Bates; cast: Sydney Sweeney (Sister Cecilia), Simona Tobasco (Sister Mary), Alvaro Morte (Father Sal Tedeschi), Niccolo Senni (Customs Official), Dora Romano (Mother Superior), Benedetta Porcaroli (Sister Gwen), Giampierro Judica (Doctor Gallo), Giorgio Colangeli (Cardinal Merola); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Sydney Sweeney, Jonathan Davino, David Bernad, Teddy Schwarzman, Michael Heimler; Neon; 2024)

“Skewers the patriarchal structure of the Catholic Church.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A bloody revenge Catholic horror film, that plays out as an Italian nunsploitation film. It’s the kind of retro horror film made in the ‘70s, but inferior to those better films. It’s slickly directed by Michael Mohan (“The Voyeurs”/”Save The Date”) and written as a shock and schlock scare film by Andrew Lobel, whose under-cooked script keeps things not tasting right. It’s a ridiculous religious arthouse film that skewers the patriarchal structure of the Catholic Church.

The devout Catholic and unworldly young Cecilia (Sydney Sweeney, the The White Lotus, Anyone But Me and Euphoria actress), is from the suburbs of Detroit. She found religion after surviving from falling in the frozen lake as a child. As a novice nun the young woman decides, for some reason not made clear in the film, to stay at a prestigious convent in the remote hills of Italy even though she speaks only a little Italian and needs the help of the other nuns to communicate.

Many aging nuns reside there as a place of retirement. They have various problems that makes it not possible for them to take care of themselves, which becomes Cecilia’s caretaker job, with the other young nuns, to help them. The splashy facility has a hospital, a rest home, a recovery center, and an asylum.

Despite taking a vow of chastity and adhering to it, Cecilia miraculously becomes pregnant. She therefore must rely on the mercy of the church patriarchs to help her fight off the evil spirits that surround her, as the church powers imprison her. But the secretive and manipulative Father Tedeschi (Alvaro Morte) has his own reasons to believe she’s another Virgin Mary, pregnant with the second coming of Christ.

Things become dark as her innocence is taken from her and the story turns into an ugly B-film horror pic, with jump scares.

It leads to a frenzied final act, that ends with a curdling scream by the blood-splattered Cecilia, who becomes an avenging nun fighting back at the evil spirits at the convent to break out of her religious prison and gain her freedom and be the one who is responsible for taking care of her body.

Sweeney performs well. But the story lacks style, character development and is too nutty to be worth caring about.

It played at the SXSW.

REVIEWED ON 3/24/2024  GRADE: C+