James Jay Edwards reviews Saint Maud, a psychological horror film written and directed by Rose Glass and starring Morfydd Clark and Jennifer Ehle. (A24)
The year 2020 was frustrating for movie fans, as many of the most anticipated releases were either sent directly to Video-On-Demand or postponed completely. Indie darling studio A24 has literally been sitting on its psychological horror film Saint Maud for a year. Now, finally, it’s being released. And while it’s hard to say any movie is worth a wait that long, Saint Maud pretty much is.
Saint Maud is about a live-in caretaker named Maud (Crawl’s Morfydd Clark) in Britain who begins working for an aging disabled American former dancer named Amanda (Jennifer Ehle from Zero Dark Thirty). As she gets to know her new charge, the God-fearing nurse feels as if she may be able to help the hard-partying woman find redemption. But there are a few skeletons in Maud’s closet that may derail her pious efforts.
(Saint Maud, theatrical release poster, A24 Films)
Writing about a movie like Saint Maud is tough because there’s so much about the movie that just has to be experienced by the audience itself. Any review is going to say too much because there are so many surprises and revelations. But I’m going to try and sell you on how great this movie is without ruining any of the good parts.
A24 has a reputation for making and distributing artsy, thoughtful flicks like Under the Skin and The Lighthouse, but also puts out brutally horrifying movies like Green Room and Hereditary. Saint Maud is the perfect combination of the two. Part exorcist movie and part body horror, it’s a deeply philosophical movie, but it does not shy away from the gooey stuff. It’s the best of both worlds.
(Saint Maud, A24 Films)
Saint Maud is one of those movies that keeps the viewer guessing the whole time. In her feature film debut, writer/director Rose Glass toys with her audience, constantly tilting things one minute, then pulling the rug out the next. Saint Maud is borderline manipulative in how it hints and teases at answers but ultimately never provides any. And that ambiguity is what makes the movie so awesome.
And Saint Maud is an incredible film. It’s visually stunning, smartly written, and boasts powerhouse performances from both Morfydd Clark and Jennifer Ehle. Clocking in at about 82 minutes, it’s a compact and tight film, yet it is about as slow-burn as a film of its length can be. It packs a whole lot of intensity and emotion into its plot without overstaying its welcome. The pacing is brilliant.
(Saint Maud, A24 Films)
While Saint Maud is not scream-out-loud scary, there’s no question that it fits firmly into the horror genre. It’s highly disturbing and extremely unsettling, the kind of shocking movie that sticks with its audience for weeks—maybe even months—after the credits have rolled and the lights have come up. It’s the kind of movie that follows the viewer home and hides under their bed, waiting for the perfect time to remind them of just how scary it actually is. Unlike some of its more disposable contemporaries, Saint Maud is not easily forgotten.
Everyone should remember the name Rose Glass. Because with a first movie as impressive as Saint Maud, horror fans should be waiting with bated breath to see what the filmmaker does next. And since Saint Maud has been on ice for over a year, Glass’ next movie should hopefully be coming along very soon.