Britain’s contribution to the horror genre has been astonishing and it is here where you are able to find directors at every stage of their career, whether it be Hitchcock in his prime or someone who has just made their breakthrough into the industry. Saint Maud marks the feature film debut of Rose Glass and since so many debut horror directors have hit the ground running with their debuts, Saint Maud has a big reputation to try and match. I’m very happy to report that Rose Glass may just have written her name alongside those who triumphed with their first try.
Saint Maud is interesting to say the least. From what I gather whilst consuming the imagery and story is that the film is one of those horrors that has a slow burn, it tries to manifest the feelings of dread through just atmosphere alone before it piles on the heavy disturbing imagery. For the first third of the film, there are hardly any traditional scares, instead the film wants to understand what place its central character to get invested in their struggles and how they might go about overcoming them, for better or worse. If anyone has seen the works of Michael Haneke’s Cache (Hidden), I would say that the film is on that levels of atmosphere.
Morfydd Clark plays the titular Maud who might I add does a remarkable job in the performance bracket, being helped along by a character with complexity is an added bonus. Maud is a private nurse who has recently converted to Christianity and she grows an attachment to a terminally ill dancer Amanda (Jennifer Ehie). Maud then starts to believe that God has brought her to Amanda to save her soul and so starts a downward spiral where she becomes obsessed with her purpose and her want to become closer to God results in her having more extreme episode like feeling the spirit of God in her body.
I especially admire the function of the character Carol (Lily Frazer), she is essentially the temptation to Amanda to continue the path she is on, of course Maud sees this as an undoing of her work and this only pushes her deeper into commitment to her duty. I felt that the story needed something like this to make the conflict both personal and religiously. Also, well done to the film for having an expertly trained cockroach, that guy is going places.
Once the film has set up the atmosphere, the psychological scares come into effect and I have to give huge amounts of praise to the editing during these moments. The majority of these psychological scares are accompanied by something similar to paranormal possession, at least that’s what the film gets you to believe. With every scare there is a release to the tension whether it be a loud noise or a frightening face (often both in cases), Saint Maud does this differently as it holds back on the release right at the last second so the suspense that has been building up inside you stays and manifests for the next moment. It’s like the film purposefully blocks you from the answers to the story in an effort to make you fearful and engaged.
If there is one moment of the film that goes above and beyond, it is the last 15 minutes of Saint Maud. I still have the images inside my head I will not get rid of them for days. Those scenes were haunting but beautifully shot with some fantastic use of shadows and light as well as well framed camera angles.
However, as near perfect as the film may seem, there are one or two problems with the film. For example I wasn’t a big fan of two characters in particular. Joy (Lily Knight) is a old nursing colleague with Maud and there is also another Nurse who Maud meets and has a brief conversation with. I never really fully understood the functions these characters had to offer, especially for the later, and I think they were constructed to be much more important that they actually are. However, this is just a teeny distraction because despite this, you are very much fully engaged.
As far as directorial debuts go, I think we’re going to be seeing more of Rose Glass in the horror genre. Saint Maud is plain brilliance in how unsettling it can make you feel. And as countless critics of the horror genre like to say, not having to endure the cut and paste jump scare one after the other is such a breath of fresh air and experiencing and the quality that comes out of every element of filmmaking makes you understand that this is coming from passionate filmmakers. Please make Saint Maud your choice this Halloween.
Final Result: 9/10 – Excellent
Have you seen Saint Maud? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
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