A young woman named Maud converts to Roman Catholicism, suddenly finding herself in the employ of a strong-headed former dancer who is in her care as a nurse. Maud’s strange obsession with her new charge combined with her newfound religion and a dark past evolve into something terrifying. Sound good? Well, you’re probably the perfect audience for A24’s newest chilling horror acquisition and searing exploration of religious fanaticism, Saint Maud.
The debut film from British director Rose Glass follows a spate of critical horror hits from film distributor A24 over the last few years. From huge genre-defining moments like Robert Eggers’ The Witch and Ari Aster’s Hereditary, to smaller but still impactful flicks like Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes at Night and Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, A24 has been delivering some of the best horror films going. Just this year they’ve delivered boundary-pushing follow-ups from Aster and Eggers in Midsommar and The Lighthouse, and they’ve also made a name for giving auteurs like Clair Denis, Yorgos Lanthimos and Peter Strickland a space to make unusual genre films like High Life, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and In Fabric.
If you’ve seen even a couple of of the aforementioned modern masterpieces then you’ll have an inkling of what makes an A24 horror film stand out. Unusual stories, atmospheric direction, and incredible sound design have thrown the idea of just what horror can be into the spotlight. Saint Maud looks like it will fit into that mold whilst also offering up an examination of womanhood, religious expression, and mental health. The crossover between religion, spirituality, and horror has given us some of the most iconic genre films of all time like The Exorcist, The Wicker Man, and Rosemary’s Baby as well as inspiring new exercises in terror from Pascal Laugier’s French new extremity flick Martyrs to Ti West’s horrifying Jonestown riff, The Sacrament.
Glass is bringing an interesting eye to her entry into the religious horror canon as Saint Maud explores the deterioration of a young woman who is so desperate to believe that she begins to lose her grip on reality. Often spiritual horror films center on the lack of agency that women have over their bodies, whether in the sense of physically, sociologically, or as a person at the mercy of other more powerful people or beings. Here though we enter from a space of choice, as Maud chooses to commit her life to being devout, it is her decisions that lead us into horror and that is a truly exciting subversion of the tropes and trappings of this particular subgenre.
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It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that A24 has picked up a genre flick that turns our expectations of relationships and gender on its head. Robert Eggers The Witch and The Lighthouse both work as dissections on the patriarchy, family, gender, and masculinity. Ari Aster’s Midsommar is a dark meditation on toxic relationships, codependency, and what we’re willing to ignore to find somewhere that we might just be able to call home.
Saint Maud looks like it will offer an interesting twist on the complex genre offerings with a rare female eye behind the camera telling the story of a young woman torn between her faith, her past, and her own torment. We’re incredibly excited for this new addition to the ever-growing and massively impressive A24 horror canon, especially as the film has the potential to once again herald the arrival of another original and vibrant voice to the contemporary horror landscape.
Saint Maud opens in North America on March 27 and in the UK on May 1.
Source: IGN.com A24’s Saint Maud Might Just Be the Next Big Horror Hit of 2020