Maud (Morfydd Clark) a former nurse and now a troubled private carer is sent to look after the terminally ill Amanda (Jennifer Ehle). Quickly a love-hate relationship establishes between them which tests Maud’s newly developed Christianity as she spirals further into mental illness.
For my money, Morfydd Clark was the most interesting performer in Armando Iannucci’s pop at 'David Copperfield', so when she was underutilised and just walks off screen never to be seen again I was a bit miffed. She was then again underused in the recent (Vlad)tepid 'Dracula' that anemically flopped onto the TV screens over New Year's. So, going into this I had high hopes I was going to get to see Clark spread her wings and I was not disappointed at all.
'Saint Maud' is a skin-crawling troubling horror film and it is utterly brilliant. Clark’s performance is the real selling point. The character is just so troubled and odd and any initial sympathy that is built comes tainted. As the story progresses there is the deeply layered performance that keeps you hooked. The film often hints at events and this vagueness uses the language of cinema to tell the story. Gestures and looks tell us more than some films fit in their total running time. It is always when she is trying to be normal is when she is at her creepiest.
Rose Glass is a talented director and has a clear instinct for the rhythm of horror. The film is really, really grim but not just because it was filmed in Scarborough. The pacing drags out every uncomfortable vibe. Clocking in at less than 90 minutes, so shows you what you can achieve with proper pacing and attention to detail. It doesn’t seem like a feature debut.
It does well to weave the themes in and out of each other. Using William Blake painting is maybe a bit hackneyed at this point but it is harder to think of someone that so prefectural encapsulates the anger and the ecstasy of religious fervour. There is also the horror of the mundane, those just trying to scrape by in the sleep seaside towns decimated by austerity. When it is all put together what you have is a finely crafted frame for the character to tumble through.
The end result is a beautifully crafted piece of horror. Its release has been delayed a few times now and I am not sure even now it is going to get the attention it deserves but hopefully, it will get some cult status over time. A must-see for those that like their psychological horror.