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Saint Maud – Movie Review

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Saint Maud – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

The slow burn horror film has become popular among filmmakers lately. While it frustrates some viewers and that’s perfectly acceptable, it’s understandable why they choose to go that route, depending on the story being told. In the case of Saint Maud, director/writer Rose Glass seems mostly interested in showing the slow effect the titular character’s psyche is having on her. Through its lean 84 minute runtime, Saint Maud gives us enough of a glimpse of who she is and why she chooses to go down the path she does. There may be a lack of jump scares and other traditional horror film tricks, but the film is no less effective in its presentation.

The movie is primarily a character study of Maud and seems particularly intent on being a critique on religion. For many, religion can be helpful and take them out of dark places. However, it’s not unusual for some to take the wrong ideas out of their scripture. Saint Maud explores that, albeit at its own deliberate pace. Glass uses a lot of close-ups and carefully placed camera angles in rooms to pull us into the environment. Most of the film doesn’t even feel like a horror movie, but rather a drama about a nurse who becomes a little too obsessed with her patient. We’re not entirely sure why, but there is a dread throughout as it’s unpredictable what Maud will do next.

The creepy imagery does eventually set in and Rose puts together some striking shots. The few special effects in Saint Maud are subtle, but provide the needed goosebumps. Morfydd Clark’s performance is appropriately quiet at many points, conveying so much through her facial expressions. We have to believe her evolution in the film and Clark captures it remarkably well. Jennifer Ehle also delivers great work as her patient. The character is a nasty piece of work and Ehle makes her truly detestable. There are multiple scenes consisting of only these two and they manage to give us an idea of their relationship and the way it develops.

At times, one does wish the movie would hurry up a little, although the length is still very much appreciated. This is a story that works best at this runtime, rather than extended to two hours. While Maud’s story is compelling, the themes on religion are what leave the biggest impact. This is a very critical depiction of Christian worship, one that will likely offend many viewers. However, it’s an interesting examination on the other side of religion. Is it possible to be too consumed by it? Can it affect your daily work life in a negative way? These are questions the film poses.

Saint Maud isn’t a conventional horror film, as the truly horrific parts don’t appear until around the third act. However, Rose Glass seems just as interested in exploring this young woman’s psyche as she is in scaring the audience. She does become a fully developed character and it’s intriguing watching her become obsessed and self-consumed by her own unusual bond with this patient. In her feature directing debut, Glass shows a real eye for the camera as she places us in unique spots that provide us insight into the characters. It will be intriguing to see where her visions take us next.

Stefan Ellison