Rose Glass directs Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle and Lily Frazer in this psychological horror where a newly converted Roman Catholic with a dark secret begins caring for a manipulative lesbian on her deathbed.
Every Autumn we get a critically acclaimed small “H” horror. These rattlers come out lauded as “the scariest movie ever” and struggle with the hype. It attracts the kids and the casuals, expecting Insidious or Friday the 13th, who are disappointed and restless by the quiet, difficult, sophisticated and unsettling drama they have accidentally bought a ticket for. The Babadook, The Witch and (the not quite as good) Mother! all struggled with expectations forced upon them by overwhelming marketing when their audience should have been prepped for slow burn and word of mouth chills. Thank Covid that Saint Maud’s screenings are only alluring to the horror hardcore. Those of us who know for every Texas Chainsaw, there is a Repulsion. Watching this in a screen of only 15 engaged cinephiles rather than 60 plus distracted mongos was a snobbish luxury. The movie itself is an achingly beautiful character study, chillingly acted by Clark and Ehle. Newcomer Morfydd puts in a powerhouse, colouring in similar lines to Anthony Perkins in Psycho or Jennifer Jason Leigh in Single White Female. The kinda tightly wound, nerdy, vulnerable killer loon who you want to take under your wing and just give a cuddle to, whose unhinged point of view you can actually see and empathise with. I do find British seaside towns alienating. I do struggle to find a way to tell normal people, friendly and /or threatening, to fuck off. Who doesn’t like spying on posh houses with the 20p cliffside telescope? Her loneliness, multiplying delusions and sexual confusion are very humanely handled. The escalating and inventively sinister self harm hits home hard… the film this most reminded me of is a little seen French horror called Dans Ma Peau. That nightmare of abuse made me need a little breather from the screening but this again seeps more into your imagination than your gut. Then a supernatural madness creeps up on you, intruding more and more into the actual frame. A quietly disturbing film that only really ramps up its true terror in the final few scenes Saint Maud is ridiculously polished and clever debut. I can’t wait to be under her dedicated but lunatic charge again soon. A few lacklustre moments aside, I’m happy to venerate this as a new British Horror Classic!
Check out my wife Natalie’s Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk
We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/