‘To save a soul? That’s quite something…’
The most frightening thing about going mad, is the fact that you don’t know you’re going mad. Even the mad must feel the knowing tug of sanity from time to time. An admission that something has gone very wrong, and that they are now very sick. Those glimpses of understanding must be the most maddening thing of all. Religious fervour is something that is easy to mock, and yet it afflicts thousands around the world. We live in an age in which a religious belief can inspire someone to cut off the head of another human being. There is no horror film that can be as gruesome, as sickeningly insane, as that. Saint Maud sure does try though…
Maud (Morfydd Clark) is an end of life nurse who was recently undergone a significant religious conversion following some unspecified trauma earlier in life. When assigned to free spirit Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), Maud will have her beliefs and convictions pushed to the limit.
Regular readers will know I’m terrified of my religion. The concept of Roman Catholicism is a truly dark one to expose to an unsuspecting child, and I’ve never really recovered from it. I find God to be at once a black void and a terrible, unspeakable evil. Something that doesn’t exist, except in acts of terrible cruelty and heart wrenching suffering, and yet, something that dominates my thoughts. God is dead. And if he isn’t, he’s gone full Old Testament. It is this God that inhabits Maud, or doesn’t, depending on your reading of the film.
Morfydd Clark throws herself into the role with what deserves to be award winning gusto, and first time writer/director Rose Glass uses every trick in the book to allow Clark’s stunning performance to take centre stage. Subtle visual effects combine with a menacing score to ensure that Saint Maud is a truly nail biting experience. I never once felt comfortable. I never once felt safe. This is what horror is all about.
Fear is perhaps the oldest human emotion. It is fear that drives everything else. Fear of hunger. Fear of loneliness. Fear of death. So when we watch a horror film, it should feel primitive. It should feel visceral. It should feel like Saint Maud. The best horror film since Hereditary.