Directed by Rose Glass, Saint Maud follows a private catholic nurse, Maud, that gets assigned to a handicapped woman diagnosed with a terminal disease. Over time, Maud questions her faith in God while struggling with a past filled with trauma.
Saint Maud is the kind of horror that isn’t interested in scaring you, but rather disturbing you. Despite barely having any jump scares, it excels at getting under your skin with its atmosphere and performances. More so than most horror movies, Saint Maud relies heavily on its leading actor. It’s much closer to a character study than a typical horror movie as well. Imagine a film like Taxi Driver or There Will be Blood but in a horror setting. It’s not fair to compare a new indie film to those classics but it’s probably the best way to put it.
I am with thee
A big part of Saint Maud is finding purpose in life. Maud struggles to find her place in the world around her and so does Amanda, the terminal patient Maud is assigned to. Both have approaches that are similar and different in interesting ways. All of this is set against a backdrop of Maud’s faith in God. The film smartly evades giving out any opinions per se but rather one girl’s interpretation of everything. In the end, we aren’t left with a take on religion but rather with a fictional character’s take on it. There’s still enough room for controversy as Maud handles challenges in life in some extremely disturbing ways. In a weird way, there’s a lot to relate to but also a lot that feels horrifying.
Rose Glass does a phenomenal job for her debut film. The style of direction showcased doesn’t feel like coming from a debutante at all. Set in London, the film carries a gloomy tone throughout. Scenes in the dark are lit with minimal lighting, most of it natural, giving it an almost gothic feel. The sense of claustrophobia isn’t limited to the atmosphere though. The camera isn’t afraid to get close to actors, especially in very intimate scenes. The film maintains a consistent tone throughout successfully and doesn’t let go for even a second.
That’s all folks?
The one massive hurdle this film has is its small runtime. Keeping tension intact for more than 90 minutes can feel like a challenge but is something Saint Maud gravely needed. Being more of a character study, it feels in dire need of more character moments. Halfway through the runtime, there is a major shift in the story, and it feels slightly abrupt. Something you’d expect to happen far more gradually, and a lot later than it does. It does feel earned but doesn’t leave the kind of impact I expected it to. Soon after that, the story reaches its bizarre but great conclusion. I couldn’t help but wish I’d seen more. With another 30 minutes under it, Saint Maud could have very likely be mentioned in the same conversation as Get Out, Hereditary, and other recent big titles.
Saint Maud is much closer to a character study than typical horror flicks, upheld by a brilliant directorial debut from Rose Glass and Morfydd Clark’s breakthrough performance. Unfortunately, it runs too short to leave a strong impression but is still worth a watch for its artistic audacity.