This creepy, religious horror flick takes the righteous path.
To example how beautifully filmed “Saint Maud” is, you need to be reminded of such horror films of its kind as “The Exorcist” or “Hereditary.” There are two scenes involving liquid that look mesmerizing. One shows us how soup starts to bubble up, and another is when the main heroine sees visions of beer mugs have their own whirlpools. Select moments are either filmed upside down or sideways, and they look fascinating. But the absolute best and most gorgeously shot is when the main heroine, whom I should let you know is named Maud (Morfydd Clark), levitates over her bed. That moment is when she considers her own revelation.
“Saint Maud” is a short film-running for 84 minutes-but it still captures the chills of a nurse using religion to find her purpose in life. She becomes stern, she breaks some rules, and some visual effects, as I’ve mentioned, are required to represent her visions. At times, you understand it, and at times you don’t, but you must admire how writer/director Rose Glass makes her feature debut with ambition and passion.
The movie is set in an English seaside town, and Maud, formally named Katie, is a young nurse, who becomes more religiously devoted after a tragic incident. She also becomes the private nurse to an American dancer named Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), who is suffering from stage four lymphoma. Despite the fact that the cancer patient is an atheist, she’s becomes obsessed with saving her life.
When she gets canned for striking Amanda at a party, Maud ends up going through a mental breakdown, seeing beer whirlpools, offering sex and hand jobs, and even wearing nail laced-shoes.
Independent movies have their own aspects on religion. They can be horrifying or emotionally complex, depending on how the filmmakers paint them. Like when Paul Schrader had Ethan Hawke wear barbwire in “First Reformed” or when Ari Aster took the horror genre to new heights in “Hereditary” and “Midsommar.” As far as I know, most movie-goers expect happy endings or they don’t see what the filmmakers see in them, and their comments are valuable. You just have to see them in a certain light.
The final five minutes of “Saint Maud” are dazzling, as it reveals whether she’s a saint or a nutcase. Either way, Clark ignites the screen with dignity and sanity. And Ehle delivers the goods when we see her character overcome the illness and dealing with Maud’s holy views. And you also get some interesting supporting work from Lily Knight as an old friend of Katie’s (remember that was her old name), and Lily Frazer as a woman Amanda is paying to arouse her.
There are times when things get a little confusing, like how Maud deals her religious direction, but once you see the true nature of it all, you manage to grasp her concept. Rose Glass guides Clark with electrifying grace, and she paints “Saint Maud” with radiant atmosphere and ambiance. I can’t wait to see her next movie.
In Select Theaters This Friday
Premieres on Epix and On Demand February 12