Saint Maud


‘…viewers should get prior warning before they dive in expecting a Hereditary-style scare-fest which never begins to materialise here…’

Hailed by critics as the best horror film in years, audiences may well take the opposite view of Rose Glass’s seaside horror-show; the popular public rating right now on google in terms of audience score is the lowest one, one out of five. Saint Maud feels like a short film exploded to almost feature length; there’s barely 70 minutes of action for your rental charge, and the narrative can be described in a few lines. The trailer promises a lot, but ten minutes from the end of Glass’ film, you’re not much further forward and neither are the characters.

Maud (Morfydd Clark) is a nurse who has been barred due to a previous incident; she accepts a private care job looking after retired dancer Amanda (Jennifer Erle) who is dying from blood-cancer. Maud takes a proprietorial attitude, and attempts to scare aware Amanda’s lover Carol (Lily Fraser), but ends up fired. Can Maud find her way back into her employer’s good graces, or is some kind of supernatural force controlling her actions? If you’ve seen the trailer, you already know the answer….

Saint Maud is a disturbing film; any feature that sees a young girl mutilating herself, sticking nails through the soles of her feet or being raped by strangers in bedsits should be an uncomfortable watch. But it’s also a public funded British horror film, and as usual, there’s a desire to lead the audience by the nose through the squalour of the lower-classes. Amanda’s arty, posho friends are super-glam and above reproach or criticism, while Maud’s working class environs are sketched in as a living hell-on-earth; the film does a vigorous job of showing Scarborough as a monstrously bleak hell-hole of seedy amusements, brutal sex and predatory rapists.

St Maud is better acted than this kind of lurid Penny Dreadful deserves; Clark and Ehle elevate the material from a base-line of slumming cultural tourism and hackneyed horror exploitation. But eighteen months of solid, unrelenting hype has killed the vague charms of Saint Maud, and the cultural assumptions featured here feel retrograde and insulting. Prospective viewers expecting a constructed, Hereditary-style scare-fest should be made aware that such a film never begins to materialise here; there’s barely a shiver in Saint Maud.


Leave a Reply
  1. This doesn’t sound too good indeed. I saw it pass by here and then but didn’t stop to look at what it was about. Now I know that it promises only to be a disaster. Thanks for sharing.

    Out of curiosity, what are your thoughts on A24 movies? Do you have an opinion about them or give each of them a fair shot before judging? 😮

    • I like A24 and I get why people are excited to see their logo. More good films than casual viewers might now. This is a pick up and not their finest hour….

    • So glad to hear that someone more cinematically educated than myself would come to the same conclusions. Fed up with hearing how utterly brilliant this film is, when it’s barely half a film and hardly scary at all…

  2. Wonder Worker. That is the term for a not-dead saint. I figured I’d better write that down before I forgot again 😀

    And a resounding nope too from me.

  3. I really enjoyed it, but I formed my first impression before the hype kicked in – I saw the premiere at the 2019 LFF when the audience didn’t know what to expect (some were very upset and shaken). However, my enjoyment didn’t diminish when I rewatched it last October.

    I liked its style and themes, the acting and its concision. But although the ending is intense, it’s not really a scary film like Hereditary is (for some, at least; others found that film laughable and dull).

    I agree with your point about the squalor it depicts – it’s a heightened sort of hell. But I don’t think the film treated Amanda’s sophisticated socialite friends with much respect either – they came across to me as insulated, superficial, self-absorbed and insufferable, enthusiastically joining in when Amanda mocks Maud’s piety.

    Saint Maud is notable for how it has both benefited and suffered from the pandemic. The original cinema release was scheduled for around March / April 2020, and was hastily cancelled. The distributers resisted the temptation to go straight to streaming, as many other similarly-scaled films did. That meant that when the cinemas briefly reopened last autumn, it was one of the few strong new releases and got a lot more attention than it otherwise would have done – a double-edged sword perhaps. Few people would have felt bold enough to go to the cinema then, and its audience would have remained small, again adding to the hype to match the critical enthusiasm. I didn’t know that it’s had such poor ratings now it’s more widely available – what a contrast. I wonder if it would be received differently if it came without the hype.

    Anyway, if you’re interested, here’s what I thought of Saint Maud when I first saw it:

    • Cool, I’m not deliberately trolling, I really didn’t care for this film, and it’s interesting to hear from those more kindly disposed to it. I think an 18 month gap between Toronto and now hasn’t helped, and as you say, has proved a double-edged sword. The film has gained prominence, but been sold to the wrong audience…Hereditary worked for me, even if it was silly in retrospect; Saint Maud just struck me as silly from the get-go, and sprinkling sexual violence over it didn’t improve the flavour. Maybe Saint Maud is meant to be a two-hander case-study of losing your mind, but that’s not how it’s being sold, and that’s why grief results when this gets to a paying audience.

      Will check out your review, thanks!

      • I didn’t at all think you were trolling, don’t worry! 🙂

        I viewed it more as the two-hander about losing your mind (as you suggest) – Maud’s delusional, scarily obsessive and extreme perspective (I think much in the film is presented to us from Maud’s point of view) and also a battle for control between the two lead characters, rather than as a conventional horror film. And you’re right, it’s not really being marketed like that.

        Concerning the sexual violence, I had the impression that it was mostly consensual, at least up to the point when she hallucinates and panics. More broadly, it’s interesting that Maud’s night out is I think the only time we see her as an echo of her formal self including down to her clothes, but it’s a numbed echo. I think she’s recoiling from Amanda’s mocking betrayal and her reaction is a self-loathing, nihilistic response. She’s depressed, lost, numbed and detached.

        (well, that was cheery, wasn’t it!)

        • Yup, the two hander thing might work better if Amanda wasn’t missing for most of the second half of the film. Character studies don’t sell, but this is very much an internal film from Maud’s POV.

          I get that Maud has a bad response to Amanda’s rejection, but the key moment here is that she panics during her sexual encounter and it was clear that she did not want to progress any further. That her male partner ignores her and continues makes it a rape scene, and there’s not enough else going on here to justify that content IMHO; we’re back to scary-face protestics and sub- Insidiousjump scares after that.

          There’s a character study and a horror film fighting for space here, and barely time for either in 70 mins.Maybe if I was employed by the BFI I’d be more inclined to lavish praise on their releases, but that’s not happening as yet!

          • I completely agree. There wasn’t any need for the scene to continue that way and the film didn’t take it anywhere; the rape was never addressed afterwards, so why include it at all? It was unnecessary. The scene could just as easily have stopped after she panicked and nothing would have been lost.

            I think Saint Maud is a much smaller film in ambition, impact and appeal than the hype suggests. In a way I’m glad I saw it with no expectations, as I came away very impressed. I was okay with it being a character study disguised as a horror film (perhaps it was a thin disguise).

            • Yup, I see a lot of micro-budget horror films and applaud their effort. The hype for this rubs me the wrong way; maybe if I’d seen in in 2019 I’d have felt more positive, but I’m bound to be the poet at the picnic here…

      • Oh, I meant to say… Hereditary worked for me too. I enjoyed its silliness. A lot of people were disappointed by the ending and thought it ridiculous, but for me it just followed through with its premise. Which was fine.

  4. Interesting. I saw this in the cinema back in October and while I was not as blown away by it as the critics I did like it. I actually thought it succeeded in a way that Hereditary didn’t in that it managed to walk the line between scary and silly. I know a lot of people rated Ari Aster’s film but I thought it was ridiculous and actually made me laugh at the end. This was more effective in my opinion. Incidentally, while she wasn’t engaged I did think the sex scene was consensual. I can totally see where you are coming from but this film landed better with me.

    • And Saint Maud has landed well with quite a few, but the best film of the year? Really? Your opinion seems much more credible to me, but the hype works against a film so slight. I’ll be surprised if this reaches a percentage of Heriditary’s audience; it’s just a Repulsion-style derenagement story with two or three jump scares, most of which are in the trailer. Maybe this plays better in the cinema…

    • Well, that IS today’s correct answer….in this case, I don’t blame you. Maybe some people get a thrill from films breaking taboos in terms of violence to women, but I’d rather stuff like this didn’t exist; it’s just a goofy horror flick with pretentions.

      How was your dinner with Chuck Norris?

  5. I’ll probably catch it on DVD, but I’ve been suspicious of the hype. Hell, I thought Hereditary was overhyped. It’s sad the way the critical press has been so taken over by the promotion machine that it now operates like the user reviews on IMDb: a new release hits ratings of 9-plus for the first few weeks of its release and then crashes to earth. Except now the user reviews have become more negative than the professionals, with the latter group having become total sell-outs, or buyers-in of the hype. What happened to bitchy critics who regularly slagged stuff in entertaining ways? It’s like negative reviews have become a kind of thoughtcrime. Rant over.

    • Totally agree. In the UK, we have public funded films being chosen to play in public funded cinemas at public funded cinemas; a system of expensive make-believe where everything is great, and critics keen to get into the public-funding loop compete to write glowing reviews. Until, as you say, the public see the actual product and the whole thing collapses….your rant is more than justified.

Leave a Reply