An uber-religious palliative care nurse (Morfydd Clark) with a mysterious past and boundary issues endeavours to save her patient’s (Jennifer Ehle) soul in new British horror movie Saint Maud.
Rose Glass’ psychological chiller is a wonderful directorial debut about religious piety and sexual repression, like if Carrie and Darlin’ had a baby. Ben Fordesman’s beguiling cinematography lends a levitating quality to this unspecified seaside town (filmed in Scarborough), whose neon seafront and sideways alleys offer a doorway into Maud’s maddened mind.
This singular perspective eliminates the need for supernatural explanations, exposing the nurse as a troubled soul with more disorientating baggage than an airport carousel. At the same time Glass leaves the door to Maud’s past open just enough to maintain an air of mystery, while rooting the quirky drama in the social reality of caregiving and female expectation.
Clark is fantastic as the titular fanatic, with an eeriness to her Welsh niceties that might be called the Uncanny Valleys. The consistent comedy is interrupted only by jarring injections of normality (a great pub scene in particular) and gore, including the grossest scene involving Converse shoes since I, Robot. And at 83 minutes, it can teach Ari Aster something about brevity and clarity.
With its refreshing resistance to indulgence and flair for fun, Saint Maud is an individualistic calling card that puts the scar in Scarborough.