I’ll admit it – I’m a sucker for religious imagery in films. I don’t know why, I wouldn’t consider myself a religious person nor am I someone who is outwardly anti-religion. There is just something about Catholicism and Horror that just… make sense.
I first became aware of Saint Maud before its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). I was sold, but unfortunately so were all the tickets to see a screening. So I waited. And waited. And then the pandemic hit and it seemed like my opportunity to see this film was being pushed so far back I didn’t know if a release date would ever come. Just as I thought I may have to resort to doing the unthinkable… (illegally downloading)… February 12, 2021, was announced. Thank God.
Saint Maud is rated R for disturbing and violent content, sexual content, and language. In regards to gore, it is limited. Mainly it is just shown in flashes – not drawn-out gross scenes. No animals are harmed.
With that said I would like to give a trigger warning for sexual assault. Although I wouldn’t say it is graphic, it could be difficult for some. For reference, it follows shortly after Maud is shown having sex with the man from the bar.
This film is beautifully shot, scored, and written. I would give it 4.5/5. I would be happy to rewatch it and will definitely be recommending it to friends.
Below I will be sharing thoughts that may be considered spoilers.
Rose Glass – the director and screenwriter, has spoken about the film’s relationship to religion and mental health. In an interview with the LA Times, Glass talked about how Saint Maud stems from her personal experiences attending Catholic school and her interest in exploring how “our internal worlds can be so vastly different from what we present externally.”
A scene I think highlights this tug of war between the internal world / external self is where Carol comes to check in on Maud after their awkward encounter a few nights prior. Suddenly, Carol is let into the internal mind of Maud (her apartment). Maud seems almost unable to respond to Carol’s attempt at conversation and as a viewer, it’s a beautifully uncomfortable moment where we are left with the anticipation of wondering what Maud is feeling. Is she embarrassed? Mad? Upset? Will she collapse and break down in Carol’s arms for a moment of reflection and clarity or will she sacrifice Carol to the devil right then and there? Suddenly, what we think we know – we don’t.
Brilliant. In my opinion, Glass successfully explored this and more in the short hour and 24-minute runtime.
Although – surprisingly – this wasn’t what I found myself most drawn to in the film.
As I said, I waited a long time to watch this movie. I spent two… almost three lockdowns dreaming of it. And I think the fact that I experienced this film when I did lends itself to a whole new interpretation. The struggle of life and death. Alone, or together.
The idea that Maud spends most of the film determined to save Amanda from death without God, only to be rejected, made me think about the struggles humanity has faced over the last year. Can we really save each other? Is believing in something more an invitation to a community we all need, or is it the most isolating thing one can do? Does the afterlife comfort you or does it disconnect you from the world around you?
They say God’s timing is always right – maybe the release of Saint Maud is a testament to that. Saint Maud is a gift from the horror gods during a time where we are desperate for something. Anything. And what a beautiful something we got.
Oh, and the final scene might go down as one of my favourite scenes in a horror movie. Ever.