FILM REVIEW: SAINT MAUD
SAINT MAUD does for Christianity what hundreds of other horror films do for satanism, and it is infinitely more terrifying. As it turns out, the holy spirit is just as malevolent as a restless one. SAINT MAUD is director Rose Glass’s first full-length feature, and she helms it with unapologetic certainty in her vision. The result is yet another A24 banger, a film that sinks under the skin and stays there.
SAINT MAUD’s horrifying portrait of Christian religious fervor hasn’t been seen since CARRIE. It could well paint a picture of Margaret White’s early 20s. However, Maud is somehow even more self-flagellating (in the literal sense) than Carrie’s mum. Yet, she never reaches the caricature of Piper Laurie’s legendary performance.
After an unspecified yet gruesome accident at the hospital leaves her without work, recently converted Maud takes a job as an in-home nurse for the glamorous yet dying Amanda. Maud is enamored with Amanda and becomes fixated on ‘saving her soul’. In the process, Maud’s faith becomes increasingly untethered from reality, and her behavior erratic and disturbing.
While SAINT MAUD takes its time, it is not without its shocking moments. I jumped in my seat quite a few times. But the film’s fear factor goes beyond the realm of the ‘jump scare’ that many speak of with such derision (which is not always but usually warranted). The film frequently evokes a visceral reaction, especially at its conclusion. Though you see it coming (and wish it wasn’t so), the ending will burn itself in your mind.
SAINT MAUD’s physical horror is just as unnerving as its psychological horror. A pure degradation of both body and mind. While not particularly gory by seasoned horror fans’ standards, the violence- both self-inflected and towards others- will make you wince as though you feel it too. The film’s tagline, Maud’s oft-quoted mantra of “never waste your pain,” is all you need to describe the drawn-out suffering you will find in this movie.
Morfydd Clarke is perfect as our deranged title character- one who is no saint (ha) but is ultimately a victim of her unraveling mind. Clarke elicits from us both sympathy and fear. She treads the line between martyr and persecutor well, and I predict her performance is going to be one of the standouts of 2020 indie film. Jennifer Ehle also gives us reasons to love and hate Amanda, who captivates us just as she does Maud.
SAINT MAUD has unique and effective camera work, with shots churning and turning upside down. They are dizzying at times and expertly reflect the chaos of the story. Maud’s physical and mental states are palpable, and the film makes us feel as if we too are caught up in holy rapture. As God bears down on Maud, the film bears down on us.
SAINT MAUD takes place in claustrophobic and heavily curtained rooms, night-time fairgrounds and the cold, dismal English seaside. There is nothing cosy or comforting about the film. It is a picture of horrific bleakness as the characters suffer from physical and mental illness.
SAINT MAUD is about women and has very little to do with men, this is, in my opinion, a good thing. Rose Glass has given us a film about complex relationships between women. She does so through what feels like a genuine female gaze. Saint Maud is a horror film, but it also radiates sexuality that is unencumbered by hetero norms. It is a movie with effortless queer representation.
SAINT MAUD’s United States theatrical release date (Prior to the Corona virus outbreak) is/was slated for April 10. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic all theatres are closed. A24’s website currently lists the films release date as “TBA-April 2020”
Get baptized in preparation.
“SAINT MAUD does for Christianity what hundreds of other horror films do for satanism, and it is infinitely more terrifying. ”
4 1/2 Tombstones out of 5…