Opens In Australian Cinemas Thursday 18 March.
* * * *
There are many parallels between Saint Maud and Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook (2014). Both are supremely assured, concise and precise debut features featuring severely traumatised female protagonists whose tenuous grip on reality is made manifest for the viewer, so that the line between thriller (a suspense film set in the real world) and horror (a suspense film with supernatural elements) is blurred. Both can be read as entirely literal depictions of mental illness. Both are also scary AF.
Maud (Morfydd Clark, in one of the performances of the year thus far) is a young palliative care nurse-for-hire in a British seaside town that has seen better days. Having been through a traumatic event, she has turned – heavily – to God, and when she is assigned to care for a semi-famous choreographer (Jennifer Ehle) with stage four lymphoma, she sees it as an opportunity to redeem herself by saving a soul. Things don’t go according to plan.
To say more would be to spoil; if you’re into sophisticated horror that’s about the human condition rather than jump-scares (although there are a couple of wicked ones here), this is for you. It’s very well directed, the strangely melancholic milieu is rich, and the script is bold, taking on religious belief as a kind of self-destructive mania. Writer/director Rose Glass’ career is, effectively, made: this film is attention-grabbing for all the right reasons.