Review by Camden Ferrell
Saint Maud is a horror film that had its debut at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. After some delay due to the current state of the world, this movie will be the first release from A24 of the new year. This movie is also the feature film debut of writer/director Rose Glass. While this movie is undoubtedly well-made, it suffers from a sluggish pace and a rather uneventful story.
After failing to save the life of one of her patients, one woman becomes a devout convert of Catholicism and begins to call herself Maud. She is assigned to care for Amanda, a terminally ill former dancer. Maud becomes obsessed with her patient as she believes it is her duty to save the soul of her atheist patient. This is an intriguing premise that has the potential for suspense, horror, and a deep exploration on its themes of religion.
Unfortunately, it is apparent very soon that this movie isn’t concerned too much with living up to its aforementioned potential. It is an extremely slow burn that doesn’t satiate the viewers need for suspense or fear, and it doesn’t truly come to head until its anticlimactic finale. While slow burns can be effective, it seems that this movie misused it, and it caused its few shocking moments to fall flat.
The lead performance from Morfydd Clark and the supporting performance from Jennifer Ehle are fairly decent. They don’t do much to surpass expectations, but they seem to make the most of its less than stellar execution and script. Both actresses excel most in the film’s final act, and they both seem like the have potential to become future staples of the genre.
This movie does explore religion in a thematic way through its enigmatic protagonist, but it feels shallow more than anything. Religion is such a broad and complex topic and while the film’s final message is clear, it feels underwhelming in the way they didn’t dive deeper into the subject matter. Regardless, this is a movie that doesn’t utilize the same religious tropes found in horror, so it at least managed to find some originality in that manner.
It’s hard to deny that this movie is fairly well-made despite its lethargic execution. The atmosphere and environment are both fine-tuned, and they serve as a perfect backdrop for a movie such as this one. The cinematography by Ben Fordesman is pretty encapsulating as well. Even though it’s not narratively engaging, there are some great shots and sequences throughout that work due to his camera work.
Running under ninety minutes, this is a movie that feels much longer than it actually is. It could have benefit from a longer runtime and a much faster pace. It’s rather unfulfilling by the end, and it seems like more could have been said and done about its main character and her beliefs. Regardless, this still shows some signs of promise for a blossoming career from Glass, who does undoubtably have a strong creative vision that I’m curious to see more of in the future.
Saint Maud isn’t as exhilarating or thought-provoking as A24’s other horror entries, but there are still some commendable elements. Die hard fans of psychological horror may enjoy this experience, but it will most likely fall flat for any casual viewer.
Saint Maud will be in select theaters January 29 and on Epix February 12.