SAINT MAUD (2019) is a powerful film that dares to ask the question, “Could God’s presence be more terrifying than his absence?” (If you know my work, you know this theme fascinates me.) The result is a story about the comfort and dangers of deep belief, a work of psychological horror that sometimes steps into cosmic horror.
Maud became a devout Christian after a mishap at the hospital where she worked as a nurse. Now she’s a hospice nurse with a private agency responsible for caring for a dancer dying of cancer. Feeling chosen by God for some great purpose, Maud often feels a direct connection with the divine, which at times takes on a powerful sexual pleasure, other times a body-contorting source of pain. Frustrated in her mission, she begs God, who takes pity and tells her what to do next…
This is a surprisingly effective work of horror, as we see everything through Maud’s point of view, and she’s obviously crumbling, using her relationship with God to hold together her psyche after a horrific incident in her past. Along the way, we question whether her visions are from God, from her cracked psyche, or perhaps from some malevolent spirit intent on using her. Fascinatingly, all three are equally horror, and all three lead to a questioning of the slippery slope where belief becomes a dangerous delusion.
It’s a slow burn, and it’s not exactly a positive and uplifting character arc, but overall, I found it very effective at doing what it set out to do, and I was affected, particularly by the ending, which delivers a terrific payoff.