Saint Maud Movie Review
The line between religious devotion and insanity has never been narrower, or more tenuous, than in Saint Maud, the ferocious debut film from writer/director Rose Glass. A lean, mean psychological thriller that tinkers with body horror and plays with religion like damaged rosary beads, Saint Maud will easily be considered one of the best horror movies of 2021 once the year is out.
Glass immerses her title character, played with frighteningly little apparent effort by Morfydd Clark, in a cesspool of mental fragility. Saint Maud is bleak, the movie rarely embracing full color but rather a canvas of browns, grays, and putrid greens. It’s through this lens that poor, young Maud sees the world, and this is the world that has shaped her views and drives her actions. The world is a nasty, corrupt place, full of nasty, corrupt people, and it, and they, need saving.
But do they need saving? And is this the real world? And if it is, is Maud interpreting it correctly?
Those are the questions at the core of Saint Maud, a movie that toys with and hints at exorcisms, Satan, and divinity but has much more devious intentions. We watch Maud’s slow and unsteady ascent (or descent?) into religion, her conviction to a higher power that is practically begging her to submit to His will, through her own eyes. And yet we are also watching Maud, and from afar she is strange, frightening, and increasingly insane.
But is atheism truth--for if it is, religion is, and all people that bow to an imaginary guy in the sky are practicing, a form of insanity--or is atheism a form of devil worship, a guise for evil?
Glass is unafraid to provide a clear answer, if only in the film’s final split-second, but the journey is riveting and enthralling. Clark’s performance is startlingly perfect, an eye-opening, mouth-dropping turn for the actress who in true horror genre fashion won’t get the recognition she deserves. Jennifer Ehle, in a supporting role, delivers another terrific performance as well.
It’s only February, but it’s hard to envision another horror movie this year making such a mark as Saint Maud. It’s an incredible feat.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.