Saint Maud was the big British horror movie of 2020. It’s a debut feature from Rose Glass, and has had incredibly positive reviews. However, I have to say that for me the film was a tremendous disappointment in almost every regard. In the US the film was picked up by the esteemed and often great distribution company A24. In recent years A24 has done some amazing work, but they are also a company that benefits from the fact that some people will buy anything they put out. For example, 2020’s Gretel and Hansel probably would have gotten a lot more attention under the A24 label instead of Warner Brothers.
A nurse named Katie has failed to save the life of a patient in her care. Time has passed, and she now calls herself Maud. She’s a devout Roman Catholic, and now she is working as a home-care nurse in an unnamed coastal town (it’s fairly obvious that it’s Scarborough). She needs to care for a dancer who is suffering from a chronic illness, and whose lifestyle is very much at odds with Maud’s faith. Maud wants to save her soul, and her grip on reality spirals out of control.
Maud is played by Morfydd Clark, and Jennifer Ehle plays her patient. Clark is fine in the role, as is Ehle, but as the film progresses it gets worse and worse, and sillier, until an ending that is quite silly indeed. A lot of people have loved it, and some even called it the best film of 2020, but it really didn’t work for me, although I respect the intent. British horror movies are not always the best, and “elevated horror” is extremely hit and miss.
The film falls into the trap of being self-important “elevated” horror. Some of those movies are great, but the notion that one type of horror movie is more worthy than another is kind of ridiculous (and really snobbish as well). The plot isn’t particularly original—Maud is obsessive about her religion, but is she also possessed by something? If so, is it God or the Devil? First Reformed (also an A24 release) deals with some similar issues but in a more satisfying way. It does depict Northern seaside British towns well, but you’ve seen versions of this film as both horror and thriller before. The film has done well despite being pulled from cinemas, and I’m sure Rose Glass will make it into her calling card to do bigger and better things in the future, bit like The Babadook director Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale was a much better film.
Extras include a commentary with Glass and her editor Mark Towns, a virtual Q&A with Glass and film critic Robbie Collin, and three making-of featurettes.