Unresolved trauma and domestic servitude are conflicting forces trying to find resolve by way of religious ecstasy in Rose Glass’ debut feature Saint Maud. The monster in this gloriously photographed film gestates inside a seemingly altruistic nurse who has taken it upon herself to do God’s work, and in doing so blurs the line between sanity and sanctimony.
In probably one of the most complex roles since Lady Macbeth, the hypnotic Morfydd Clark plays Maud, an introverted palliative nurse who begins to care for a well-known celebrity named Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), who has taken hospice inside the bedroom of her seaside mansion. Maud moves in and discovers her client has led a life of hedonism and indulgence which triggers her to place piety over purpose.
These two forces coexist but compete for the other’s salvation. Who is saving whom? To answer that question you’ll have to wait until the end of this rather short but extremely unnerving feature film (84 mins.). And even then you’ll have to relentlessly bargain with yourself over the assessment of what you just watched.
Glass doesn’t flinch in her film. She moves through the world she’s created with a holy lens, pausing only to admire the texture of surfaces which almost become foreshadowing. For instance, Amanda’s home has many different wallpapers, some erratic and jarring, some haunting and eerie. Cinematographer Ben Fordesman beautifully captures every nuance from floor tiles to wood paneling. These textures are as complex as the characters who live within them, giving a new meaning to the term haunted house.
Maud’s mystery deepens as we discover her morally superior and pastoral attitude is the result of some off-screen trauma she has never transgressed. The ordeal was so bad she changed her name, leaving a life behind which she now loathes in others. To keep her focused and devoted to her vows, Maud often self-mutilates to keep her demons at bay, and as we see in a brutal and shocking final act, that doesn’t always work.
Glass has designed the perfect evolution of the horror film in Saint Maud. Generations that grew up on hack and slash mindless narratives, heavily criticized in the Siskel and Ebert era, are transforming into complex think tanks that dare you to rise above your antiquated definitions of the genre. The intense intellectual aftertaste is sublime but may be too heady for some to swallow.
Saint Maud is a profound psychological torture fable matched tone for tone by its incredibly talented cast. The scariest take-away from the film is how the embodiment of “good” and “evil” are used synonymously. Merciful and merciless, Saint Maud is a masterpiece for the ages.
Saint Maud is in American theaters and drive-ins January, 29. It will stream on EPIX on February 12.
Take a look behind the scenes of the upcoming 2021 horror movie The Conjuring 3
iHorror – ‘Saint Maud’ Review: The Good, The Bad And The Righteous
Author: Timothy Rawles
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January 29, 2021