Review: 'Saint Maud' is Thoughtful, Unnerving, and Horrifying

by Kevin Taft

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday November 30, 2021

Morfydd Clark in 'Saint Maud'
Morfydd Clark in 'Saint Maud'  

First time feature director Rose Glass has written and directed a haunting horror film that puts the audience squarely in the mind of a religious fanatic.

"Saint Maud" stars Morfydd Clark (the upcoming "The Lord of the Rings" series) as Maud, a British caregiver living in New York's Coney Island. Her run-down, one-room apartment is spare except for the makeshift altar she has created to honor Jesus Christ and God.

Being a devout Christian, Maud finds it hard to separate her beliefs from her duties as a caregiver for the dying. When she is hired to take care of Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), an ex-ballet dancer in the final stages of terminal cancer, she can't seem to control her impulses to speak about God.

Watching Amanda hook up with a girl named Carol (Lily Frazer), have wild parties, and dismiss her beliefs as a bit silly, Maud tries in vain to "save" Amanda. While Amanda humors Maud, calling her "my little savior," this doesn't endear her to Maud, and eventually Maud loses her cool and she must face the consequences.

During all of this, the audience is kept on its toes, not knowing whether Maud is really infected by the spirit of God himself, or perhaps something more sinister. There are times where she is overwhelmed by the spirit and her face or body contort in the subtlest of ways, hinting at a possible supernatural reason for Maud's actions.

We know from flashbacks that something unusual occurred while Maud was working at a hospital, but we're never sure exactly what happened. When the film is over we can make assumptions, but the facts are left vague.

Glass does an expert job of creating an air of uncertainty, suspense, and creepy doom. Whenever Maud is onscreen we are kept off-kilter because she's such an odd bird, we don't know whether to love her attentiveness and naïve spirituality, or fear her tunnel vision.

In a way, Glass' film is a spiritual sibling (pun not intended) to Florian Zeller's "The Father," which allows audiences to experience what it would be like to have dementia. Here, we see religious hyperbole and fanaticism through Maud's eyes. What she sees and experiences isn't always reality — or is it?

Clark's portrayal of Maud is at turns timid and compassionate, while finally twisting into crazed resolve. She wholeheartedly has faith in what she believes, and one sometimes wonders if that alone is the work of something far more sinister. It's a fascinating performance in a mesmerizing and oftentimes shocking film. (My mouth hung open more than a few times.)

This isn't one of those jump scare/literal horror films that dominate popular horror films. Nor is it as languid and esoteric as something like "Midsommar." It's thoughtful, unnerving, and horrifying, while making a damning statement about religious extremism and how damaging it is to the believer, as well as those they are victim to.

"Saint Maud" is available today on DVD, BLU, and digital!

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.