Maud just needed a hug…and a lot of therapy.
REPPED: Morfydd Clark’s performance as Maud is equal parts chilling as it is tragic. The character is a powerful allegory for religious zealotry and the dark paths it can lead you to. It’s uncomfortable watching Maud interact with other people because of how awkward and unaware she is but it also makes for some darkly comedic moments and Clark does a great job of delivering a grounded and sincere performance while also acknowledging how loony and unwell Maud really is. Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle seems like the biggest influence for Maud with her occasional voiceovers and apparent savior complex. The events of Saint Maud are told from the perspective of Maud herself, so the film romanticizes her actions and presents them as an act of God’s will. However, director Rose Glass smartly manages to pull us back to the reality of Maud’s delusions which in turn delivers one of the most chilling endings to a horror movie I’ve ever seen.
NEGGED: The relationship between Maud and Amanda seems like an afterthought during the middle portion of the film. Maud is assigned as Amanda’s caretaker who is diagnosed with a terminal illness and their interactions together are very good because of how different their personalities are. Maud is repressed and devout in her religion whereas Amanda is promiscuous and uninterested in religion or salvation. In a mocking fashion, Amanda calls Maud her “little savior,” unknowingly sparking Maud’s self-imposed crusade to save Amanda’s soul. This is what the film’s first act is about but once we reach the second act, Amanda is never present until the climax which is a strong conclusion for both characters, but it works because of how strong the setup during the first act was.
FINAL VERDICT: The terror of Saint Maud doesn’t come from its jump scares or demonic imagery, but from what it says about guilt and the things we turn to in order to cope with our shame. Of course, Saint Maud isn’t opposed to these horror tropes of jump scares and frightening imagery but they’re strategically used during moments when the characters are at their lowest and when the tension is at its highest. Saint Maud’s use of atmosphere and score is effective in building dread and putting us into the mental state of Maud which is the most important ingredient to making this film work. Ultimately, Saint Maud is a tragic character study of a woman seeking penitence and enlightenment but her journey ultimately leads her down a burning path of destruction.