VMDIFF 2020 | Saint Maud – Terrifying and Tragic in Equal Measure

Think you’ve seen enough movies involving dripping blood, suppressed characters and downward spirals involving religion? You’re wrong. You haven’t seen this one.

Featuring the unholiest of crossovers between startling horror and themes of loneliness and mental struggle, at a compact 83 minutes, Saint Maud is worth every second of your time.

Director Rose Glass’ feature debut tells the story of a young woman named Maud (Morfydd Clark) who takes it upon herself to be a “saviour” of a woman (Jennifer Ehle) she is supposed to nurse. The title character goes to startling lengths to fulfill what she thinks is her destiny. We follow her as she fights to keep her faith alive and crush the backlog of trauma in a seaside English town covered in grey clouds, howling winds, dark memories and swarming sea gulls.

The camera, the house, the sea, and the trembling atmosphere created by Adam Janota Bzowski’s score all come together to provide an experience that lingers long after the shocking finale. The tragedy of the film’s central character blended with the traditional horror build-up results in a movie that’s both contemplative and thoughtful but capable of leaving audiences reeling in their seat.


Glass’s debut feels like a strong fist slam on the table announcing its arrival, signifying a confidence beyond the filmmaker’s years. The writer-director employs pointed visual motifs to drive home the themes of the movie, and shafts of light are used stunningly to reflect Maud’s view of herself.

The movie at times can require patience, letting Maud slowly arrive to a conclusion herself as the audience waits it out. It can also sometimes lose its balance dealing with ambiguity and explicitness, making viewers wish some situations were more sketched out and others weren’t as much. But everytime the film slows down enough to probe its themes, it jolts back up in the next five minutes. Despite a languorous pace, it constantly demands attention, and trust me – it will eventually get it.

Saint Maud is a psychological horror that doubles up as a tragedy due to the very grounded elements that cause such scares in the first place. Whether it be through its moments of visceral terror or its tragic story, one way or another, Glass’ promising debut will get under your skin.

Saint Maud screened at this year’s Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival. It is in cinemas from December 4.

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