Cast: Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle, Lily Knight and Lily Frazer
Directed by Rose Glass
Written by Rose Glass
Length: 84 mins
With Halloween only a couple of weeks away, it seems only right to shed some light on another great horror. ‘Saint Maud’ may deliver the most exciting thrills that you’ll see in the cinema this year, even with the re-release of classic horrors being so prominent at the moment. After a recent conversion to Christianity, and a new job as the nurse of a terminally ill dancer who fell from grace, Maud looks to start a fresh life. However, her past isn’t as far behind her as she may think, and hints of previous experiences begin to break through the cracks of her recently-formed pristine persona.
With a fairly short runtime of just around eighty minutes, ‘Saint Maud’ uses simplicity to it’s advantage and focuses mainly on the relationship between Maud and her patient, Amanda. As a result of this, the intricacies that develop between the two allows the audience to read into every emotion that’s on display within their scenes, meaning we’re able to judge for ourselves who we believe is in the right or wrong. This feels like a breath of fresh air in the horror genre, where previously characters were often surface level reflections of the audience’s terror. This idea has become more prominent in recent years through the mother-son relationship of ‘Hereditary’ or the commentary of masculinity in ‘The Lighthouse.’ It could even be argued that within the film, the horror and thrill takes a backseat to the dramatic tension between these characters, with ‘Saint Maud’ becoming a drama focusing around obsession and envy.
However, to glaze over the horrors hidden within this film would be a complete injustice, as ‘Saint Maud’ delivers one of the most thrilling narratives this year. Visually, the familiarity of the run-down and worn out seaside town provides iconography that we can all relate to, which creates an even more unsettling layer to the horror, as it feels as if it takes place in an area of the world not too dissimilar to our own. Similarly, the relationships between the characters shown on-screen feels very familiar. A chat with a stranger on a bench or popping round to see an old friend delivers instantly recognisable elements to the scene that makes you only fear more for the characters, as you are able to put yourself in the shoes of these characters.
Horror is often paired with a fear of the unknown, which is a main reason why many horror films find their footing in a subject or idea that many people are unfamiliar with or uncertain about. For this reason, religions, cults and festivals are often the centerpoint for these sorts of films, from classics of the genre such as 1968’s ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ or 1973’s ‘Wicker Man’ to more modern examples like ‘Midsommar’ (2019) and ‘The VVitch’ (2015). ‘Saint Maud’ continues this theme and incorporates the ideology and imagery of Christianity to create its thrill, which of course utilises very extreme perceptions of the religion, but only to explore more fundamental questions surrounding faith and belief that many people can relate to.
‘Saint Maud’ definitely stands out from the crowd within its genre through its brilliant performances, beautiful cinematography and intriguing plot, and so I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking to enjoy an interesting horror in the run-up to Halloween, as well as supporting the arts and their local cinema.