Cinemas are currently in a bad way. Movie studios are postponing blockbusters, and here in the UK, Cineworld has temporarily closed its doors, while some Odeon branches are only opening on weekends.
Yet despite the mass closures and the absence of tent pole pictures (No Time To Die, Black Widow, Venom: Let There Be Carnage etc), new releases are still hitting cinemas. Case in point, this week’s newcomer, Saint Maud – a British horror movie from director Rose Glass.
Saint Maud tells the story of Maud, a young care worker, living in a coastal town in the UK. Maud is a solitary soul, who lives in a rundown bedsit, and is devoted to her faith.
At the beginning of the movie, Maud takes up a new role, administering palliative care to Amanda, a former dancer who lives in the local area. As the primary caregiver, Maud moves into Amanda’s house to tend to her every need and make her as comfortable as possible in the late stages of her life.
Over subsequent days, Maud and Amanda form a bond, and Maud shares details about her recent conversion to Roman Catholicism, including her belief that God speaks to her. But as the pair become close, Maud’s beliefs began to cause a rift, leading to an uneasy relationship, a question of faith, and possibly something sinister.
Now chances are, you have already heard some buzz about Saint Maud, and that’s because this picture received its premiere way back in 2019, at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The movie was then due to go on general release at the start of summer 2020, but COVID-19 happened, and well you know how that panned out.
But between the movie’s opening at TIFF and its theatrical debut in cinemas, Saint Maud has picked up a fair bit of interest. This is in large part due to the rave reviews the movie received from the festival, as well as the decent reviews it has garnered from critics.
But is Saint Maud really THAT good? And will it win over the majority of audiences looking for something scary for Halloween?
In my opinion, Saint Maud is a good film, but it isn’t perfect, and it is a divisive one. Some people will watch this movie and come away believing they have viewed something truly special; while others will wonder what all the fuss is about.
I kind of fall somewhere in the middle, as I feel there is something very disturbing about this movie, but I am not entirely sure it works in the way it could – and it certainly won’t be for everyone. However, one thing is clear to me; this is a film meant to have multiple readings; so it certainly provides much to think about post-screening, whether you like it or not.
I don’t want to delve too deep into the readings, through fear of dropping spoilers, but on my walk home from the cinema I decided there were at least two possible ways to take the story. One reading lends itself to the supernatural elements of the movie, while another simply tells the story of loneliness and mental illness.
What I should say about Saint Maud is that this is a psychological horror. Those expecting jump scares, like we have all been accustomed to seeing via The Conjuring series, will be disappointed – it isn’t that type of movie.
Saint Maud is closer in tone to Hereditary, Midsommar, or The Lighthouse, (with a dash of Carrie thrown into the mix), than it is to more mainstream fair. It isn’t loud and filled with blood and guts; instead this is all about getting into the heads of the audience and making everyone feel uncomfortable.
The approach is quiet, small scale, and considered. As a result, the creepy moments are few and far between, but that is because the audience is being asked to find horror in the journey.
There are two points in the movie where I was a little freaked out – again, I can’t say too much – but these are the moments I truly enjoyed. When they happened I felt a little shiver, which is exactly what I want from a horror movie.
Had there been a couple more of these moments, I think I would be raising my opinion somewhat and saying ‘go see this movie’. But as it stands, I can only stick to my opinion that this is good, but not quite the divine release that others are suggesting.
If you love psychological horror, then I am confident you will enjoy Saint Maud – it will tick all the boxes and stay with you long after the credits roll. As for everyone else, this picture is an acquired taste, and it may not be what you are looking for this Halloween.
Saint Maud does get a recommend from me, but it comes with a caveat. If you don’t care for psychological horror, then you probably won’t find anything here for you.