Over the past few decades, we’ve experienced many exorcism movies that question and challenge our faith: from sleeper hits like The Taking of Deborah Logan to the atheistic hidden gem The Taking of Michael King, to commercial successes like The Last Exorcism. But I can assure you, there’s nothing in the exorcism/possession canon quite like writer-director Rose Glass’s feature film debut Saint Maud.
Recently acquired by genre-friendly indie distribution company A24 (home to iconic art-house horror flicks like The Witch, Midsommar, and this year’s award season favorite The Lighthouse), Saint Maud is something you definitely won’t want to miss when it hits theaters. After attending a screening of the film at the AFI Festival’s Midnight Program, which takes place annually at the historical TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, I was still shaken from how exquisitely unholy this movie feels.
Produced in the UK, this psychological horror film follows a young nurse (Morfydd Clark) with a traumatic past, who’s assigned to take care of a terminally ill patient (Jennifer Ehle), but soon becomes obsessed with saving the woman’s soul.
Saint Maud moves along at a steady but confident pace, while layering out its (un)holy plot in ways that will trick your unconscious mind, as well as your entire perspective toward religion and faith. Glass conveys and executes this concept expertly, as the plot gradually unfolds in ways that are simultaneously beautiful and sinister… particularly at the film’s conclusion.
I also must admit this film has one of the best jump scares I have ever experienced in a movie theater. I have no doubt that if I’d had a bucket of popcorn with me, it would have flown about ten feet in the air.
Without giving too much away, Saint Maud is a slow-burn exorcism flick guaranteed to spark discussion among your peers after the credits roll… yet its complexity isn’t so much head-scratching as a gleefully satisfying topic that you can discuss with friends of any religion… and who knows? Perhaps it might make them think twice when they hear voices from above.