Review: Drab 'Saint Maud' another laggy horror experience
Courtesy of A24
As someone who relishes slow burn horror flicks with creepy aesthetics, especially ones that have an A24 logo attached (see: “Hereditary,” “The Lighthouse,” and “The Blackcoat’s Daughter”) you can imagine how surprised I was that Ross Glass’ “Saint Maud” - a film that garnered wide acclaim following a 2019 Toronto Film Festival bow - was another lagging horror exercise that’s sense of dread plays out for 84 grueling minutes with minimal payoff.
Set to open in limited release before it hits EPIX in a landmark streaming deal, “Saint Maud” is poised to be A24’s widest launch yet, and the divide between critics (95% currently on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences will be swift. If ever a film was destined for an F cinemascore, it’s “Saint Maud” and yet that’s exactly how the filmmakers’ and A24 want it. I’m usually game for flicks like “Midsommar” and “The Lighthouse” that are both so bizarre in their own right, it’s hard to look away, but for “Saint Maud,” I kept trying to piece it together and for whatever reason, the film never worked for me.
Maud (Morfydd Clark) is an extremely religious nurse, recently assigned as an in-home caretaker for lesiban author Amanda (Jennifer Ehle). Maud becomes immediately transfixed by her and is determined to cleanse her body of sin. But as their relationship develops, it becomes obvious that Maud’s newfound devotion to Chrisitanity is molding into something far more sadistic and perhaps the higher power she’s communicating with isn’t the “God” most people know.
That “Saint Maud” tackles this ideal of devout Christians not serving their “God” allows Glass plenty of corridors to explore, but this slow and nearly episodic horror flick gets high on its own atmospheric supply. And I don’t blame them, cinematographer Ben Fordesman finds suspense in shadows, and Clark’s committed performance is exactly what “Saint Maud” needs because the film doesn’t work without it. But for as often as Clark absolutely crushes the proceedings, the filmmakers fail by not digging deeper into who she is. There’s a weird balance that never reaches equilibrium.
No question “Saint Maud” will attract an audience as A24 flicks are notorious for sparking debates, and the conversations viewers will have based on this film's interesting though not satisfying take on religion and insecurity is noteworthy. In this case, I fell on the other side of the praise spectrum. See it for yourself and then make the judgement call.
SAINT MAUD opens in select theaters Friday, January 29th and hits EPIX February 12th