Immaculate vs. The First Omen

Immaculate vs. The First Omen: Which Film is Better?

It's the battle of the nuns.

Immaculate (2024) hit theaters March 22nd and The First Omen (2024) followed behind it just a couple weeks later on April 5th. It's hard not to compare these two films being that they were so closely released and due to the similarities between the two. So, which film is better?

Disclaimer: This is my opinion. Heavy spoilers ahead.

Immaculate, directed by Michael Mohan and starring Sydney Sweeney, tells the story of a young American nun that travels to an Italian convent and learns about an undercover plot to bring on the second coming of Jesus. This film utilizes many of the aspects you'd find in European nunsploitation films of the 70s from the visuals to the messaging-even though the director has claimed that the film is not intended to have a social message (Nobile, Jr. Fangoria).

The First Omen, directed by Arkasha Stevenson and starring Nell Tiger Free, serves as a prequel to The Omen (1976) and explores the events that happened before the church handed baby Damien over to The Thorns. Being a legacy IP, expectations weren't very high for this one. But Stevenson dialed into the classic, vintage style of the 70s in tone, imagery, and setting but pushed the limits on the gore all while highliting some important social commentary.

Both films do some things very well and not so good. But let's take a look at them a little more closely.

Photo: NEON

The Plot

In Immaculate, the story is at its root, about Immaculate conception. The priest, Father Sal Tedeschi, plays the part of a mad scientist of sorts in that he's devised a way to extract DNA from the nails that were used in the crucifixion of Jesus. Over the years, he and others within the church had been impregnating the nuns (marked by a cross) to deliver this second coming of Jesus to restore order within the church and its influence in the world.

At first glance, this is a very interesting concept. But its execution on screen lacks depth and impact. By the time the twist or the mystery is uncovered, I didn't really care. Up until that point, Sweeney's character, Cecelia, is this meek American nun just wanting to serve God. When it's discovered that she's expecting, she's held in the highest regard by everyone, aside from Sister Isabelle, who tries to kill her. Cecelia is unintersting and flat. Basically, she comes off as quite boring. So as she found herself strapped to a chair in Father Tideschi's lab, I never once found myself wondering how was she going to make it out of this.

As I mentioned, The First Omen is a legacy title and with legacy titles comes that added pressure to "get it right". The Omen is an iconic film that is actually really good from beginning to end. And along with the expectations comes that feeling of viewers already knowing how it will end. But I found the road getting there really well done. To me, it was not about how it would end but how will they tell this story. Because as you know, we don't know much about Damien's past other than the fact that his mother was supposed to be jackal (another thing I was concerned about).

In The First Omen, there is a church within the church that is wanting to bring people back to church (much like Immaculate). One of the things Ralph Ineson's character, Father Brennan said was to "give them something to fear". Their agenda was to bring about the antichrist. To do so, they used a demonic jackal to mate with women in order to birth this anitchrist yet none of the babies were born properly (also like Immaculate). That was until Carlita and Margaret. It was their final chance to then mate the jackal with its own children for it to work.

Depending on how you look at it, The First Omen had an advantage that the groundwork was already there. Many of the pieces that made up the story of The Omen such as Damien's mother and the church's purpose behind what they were doing coupled with a key character, Father Brennan, made The First Omen feel like a prequel. But all the other details that Stevenson and the writers (Jacoby, Thomas, Smith) added, make The First Omen a standout in this battle.

The Themes

Both Immaculate and The First Omen hit you with the one-two punch when it comes to the social commentary. There are some pretty clear, and dark themes wrapped up within the beautiful imagery of both films. Women's body autonomy is front and center in both of these films and they both deliver the message loud and clear.

Photo: 20th Century Studios

In Immaculate, from the moment Cecilia is greeted, she's treated as an oddity for her choice to become a nun because she's "too pretty" and it would be a waste. In The First Omen, Margaret is literally strapped down and her face is covered as a demonic creature forces itself on to her.

In an article from Vulture, Elbiri states, "why should anyone be surprised that suddenly, in the wake of the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, as state after state attempts to enact religious laws depriving women of bodily agency, America is getting horror movies about people forced into monstrous births by religious institutions worried about their growing irrelevance". And why should we? Immaculate and The First Omen do not shy away from showcasing the ugly side of forced birth, literally. There are deformed babies and creature hands coming out of a vagina. I don't think you can go much darker and still be able to be shown on the big screen backed by a major studio.

I found that both of these films did an amazing job of giving us clear messaging while also balancing good storytelling. I did find that Immaculate was a bit more heavy handed with the messaging that that of The First Omen.

The Horror

This is the one thing that sets these two films apart for me. Immaculate has horror themes but The First Omen feels like a horror movie. The "scares" in Immaculate weren't actually scares. Things like birds hitting windows and people creeping up in a dark hallway, for example. It's horror lies within the story itself and is still a beautifully, bloody mess.

Photo: 20th Century Studios

Whereas in The First Omen, the scare sequences hit hard. Stevenson crafts her scares much like James Wan in The Conjuring. They are surprising, quiet, eerie, and effective. Her way of giving us what is without telling us are brilliant as well. When Margaret is laying in the bed after she's been bred (even though we don't this until later), and how she presents her to us viewers is pure excellence.

Those Scenes

You know what scenes I am talking about. In Immaculate, the final sequence is that of Cecelia escaping Father Sal while she is in labor. As she exits this underground tunnel (just in time, of course), she is then able to push her baby out. There are no cuts, just the viewer set on Sweeney's blood covered face as she grits down and pushes. She bites the ambilical cord, finds a large rock and smashes the baby to death (which we don't actually see-it's just assumed that's what she does).

In the First Omen, Margaret is already carrying the antichrist and his twin. She's being overcome by the evil inside of her. Her expression of what's going on inside of her is very reminiscent of Isabelle Adjani's tunnel scene in Possession (1981). Also, a scene that is just one continuous shot of her in this demonic element.

While both scenes render viewers speechless for a moment, Nell Tiger Free's performance left me with goosebumps and had me on the edge of my seat. I felt like I was getting possessed. On the other hand, I do believe my lack of connection with Cecelia as a character affected the impact that final sequence had. There was no care or concern, there was no sense of urgency. Whereas, this fight for Margaret's soul and the world was at stake.

Photo: NEON


What I love about movies is how we all interpret and view them differently based on our own background, our own interests, and even our own traumas. Both films shine a light on our current reality in that there is a real battle going on where women's bodies are up for debate; and they do so without remorse.

In my biased opinion, The First Omen is a better film. From beginning to end, (yes, all two hours of it), it was engaging and captivating. The characters and the plight was grounded and I couldn't help but be invested. The visuals and storytelling was enveloped in this 70s aesthetic that is true to the iconic IP it is connected to. It's provocative and really "goes there". Where Immaculate is more delicate, The First Omen comes for the jugular. "It's all for you!" is still chilling and this time, carries an even heavier connotation.

But, both Immaculate and The First Omen are great additions to the religious horror sub-genre and are such needed films in these times.

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