‘Saint Maud’ review: Rose Glass’s terrifying debut is the new saviour of cinema

If the year's best horror can't get people back to the pictures, then nothing can

Saint Maud arrives in cinemas under the most unenviable of circumstances. Many cinemas, sucker-punched by coronavirus, have been forced to shut their doors, and the whole future of the industry hangs firmly in the balance. It’s testament to the raw talent of first-time director Rose Glass, then, that this home-grown horror acts as a singular argument for why some films demand the big-screen treatment. Combining visceral horror with sinister spirituality, it’s one of the most remarkable debuts in years.

Set in a deprived British seaside town, this haunting tale focuses on live-in nurse Maud (Morfydd Clark), who is still haunted by an unspecified incident from the past. Her new client is former dancer Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), who is determined to make the most of life while confined to a hospice with a terminal illness. But as the pair spend more time together, Maud slowly becomes convinced that she must redeem Amanda’s soul before her eventual passing. This central premise proves to be the film’s greatest strength – it might not be an all-out scare-fest but Glass employs religion’s dark underbelly to craft a powerful character study of one woman’s descent into madness.

 

Instead, the horror largely emerges from Clark’s stunning performance – portraying Maud’s spiritual obsessions in a manner that flits effortlessly between securing sympathy and rightful revulsion from viewers. There’s a lot to be said for the sense of pressure-cooker dread that Glass builds throughout too. From the first hint at Maud’s chequered past, we’re led on an increasingly fraught journey, right up to the moment that the film concludes with shocking imagery that will live long in the memory.

While we’re loath to give too much more away, it’s fair to say that Glass’ debut marks the  arrival of a must-watch filmmaker, one who could well prove to be a defining voice in the future of British horror. Clark, too, proves that she’s up there with our finest young actors – which bodes well for Amazon’s anticipated The Lord Of The Rings series, in which she plays a young Galadriel. As Saint Maud‘s poster rightly warns, your saviour is coming. Be ready.

Details

  • Director: Rose Glass
  • Starring: Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle, Lily Knight
  • Release date: October 9
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