Saint Maud

This unsettling and unnerving little psychological horror has a fast pace, a great visual style and a fantastic lead performance.

The movie introduces us to Maud, played by the very Welsh Morfydd Clark recently of Rings of Power fame. She is a care giver who moved into the house of a once famous dancer with terminal cancer. She is played with great nuance by Jennifer Behle.

Maud is deeply religious, and it is implied that religion saved her from a difficult past. However her religion takes a strange form. She believes that when she pleases God, He rewards her with a physical tingling sensation akin to orgasm. She gets this sensation repeatedly as she interacts with her patient. She becomes obsessed with the idea that she needs to save her patients soul. Or maybe her religious conviction is misinterpreting romantic feelings she has for her patient.

We are kept firmly in Maud’s point of view. This becomes more unsettling the farther we get into her story. I love when movies pick a point of view instead of shooting Willy nilly. It adds a lot of subjectivity to the film and roots us in the story instead of bouncing us between narratives.

Maud steadily loses her grasp on reality and we are carried along by her madness. This would be offputting if not for the performance of Morfydd Clark. She brings a subtlety and a charisma that I wasn’t expecting. This could have been an exploitative performance. She could have played her madness to the back row and gone full wild eyed histrionics, but she never does. She roots her performance n a realism that really carried me through the movie.

The terror here is really more about the sensation of losing your grip. This isn’t a movie with jump scares or creaky old houses. It’s about the cumulative effect of losing your mind and how horrifying that really is. It reminded me of Rosemary’s Baby and Repulsion. Movies about women losing their grip.

The movie is scary in a psychological way. It has a great lead. It moves fast. This movie is well paced and doesn’t let up. One reason I love horror is that it centers female characters in a way Hollywood at large refuses to. The horror genre allows a wider array of stories and characters to take center stage.

This movie was my cup of tea. I really enjoyed it. It gave me a thrill and introduced me to an actress that I will be seeking out in the future. A-

Spoiler territory

Maud begins caring for Amanda a former dancer suffering from terminal cancer. Maud has casual conversations with God detailing her days.

One day Maud reveals to Amanda and us that she tries to obey God, and when she does, God sends her an overpowering tingling sensation. As she tells Amanda about her faith, Amanda seems to find comfort in her words as she faces death. Maud is overcome with tingling. It looks like she’s having an orgasm. Amanda tells Maud that she feels it too. They both lie on the couch seemingly overcome.

It’s not clear is maud falls for Amanda, or if she just feels am intense connection with someone who feels the same tingling sensation as she dies, but she becomes obsessed with Amanda. She begins policing her behaviors and pushing her friends away.

Amanda has a girlfriend who comes to visit her. Maud tells her to leave Amanda alone. This scene is fascinating, and I would definitely watch it again by itself it’s so good. Maud’s assertiveness, which turns to surprise which turns into childishness is incredible to watch.

Amanda has a birthday party and humiliates Maud for her devotion. Maud slaps Amanda and loses her job. We learn that Maud’s real name is Katie when Maud runs into an old friend on the street. It sounds like Maud had a wild past and a dark incident drive her out of her former job at the hospital.

Maud sinks into a self destructive depression. She can’t hear God. She has lost Amanda. Her perception becomes blurred. She begins seeing things that aren’t real. Her vision is assaulted by memories and demons. There’s a deeply uncomfortable sequence in a bar in which she gets drunk and tries to fill the void in her life with alcohol and other people, but it ends very badly.

She goes home with a guy. During intimacy she has a vision of a death at the hospital. It seems as though she killed a patient. She is shocked out of the moment by the vision. The guy isn’t done yet though and climbs on top of her to finish in spite of her protests. This scene is hard to watch.

She goes home and God speaks to her I. A frightening voice. She breaks into Amanda’s house and confronts her she is weak in bed. She apologizes to Maud. Maud tries to bless her and save her soul, but Amanda refuses claiming their is no God. She then transforms into a demon. This is deeply creepy.

Maud grabs a scissors and murders the demon. Yikes. Maud goes home and sees herself with glowing Angel wings. she goes to the local beach and douses herself in some kind of gasoline. She ignites a lighter and is engulfed in flame. We see her vision of herself being lifted to heaven and passers by kneeling down in worship. Hard cut to what’s really happening. Maud is burning to death in a horrendous inferno. It’s awful and terrifying.

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