Rose Glass’ feature debut Saint Maud, aka, Ken Russell’s Luca Guadganino’s Suspiria meets Possession, is a dizzying nightmare in all of the best ways. It firmly plants a foot in both the canons of female panic horror films (think mother! and the aforementioned Poessession), and the religious horror genre (think The Exorcist). Naturally, I enjoyed the hell out of it.
It’s too easy to provide a checklist of things that Saint Maud is similar to, but in doing so one fails to afford the film it’s due. Make no mistake, this film about a hyper-zealous nurse named Maud (Morfydd Clark) who is determined to go to any length possible to save the soul of her terminally ill patient (Jennifer Ehle) leaps far beyond simply being a collage of pastiches. There are multiple moments of abject terror in this, both in the literal sense of scares, and in the Julia Kristeva sense of the phrase.
Glass’ greatest strengths are her technical bravado, and the performance she gets out of Clark. Speaking for the first point, Saint Maud is filled with high angles and fierce shadows. Often times, the camera places you in a God-like perspective. At one point, Glass pushes the canted angle to its nth degree, literally flipping the world upside down. Clark rewards the technical prowess with an embodied performance that is painful and upsetting, in every grimace and limb contortion. The chills are plentiful here; may wrath fall upon those who disagree.