Saint Maud is one of those movies that requires some thought. (And I’ve been giving it plenty.) It follows a brief time in the life of Maud, a hospice nurse who becomes obsessed with saving the soul of one of her patients. Maud has direct experiences of God, like Teresa of Ávila but the film doesn’t make it clear, until the very end, if she suffers delusions. After the traumatic loss of a patient at the beginning of the film she becomes a devout Catholic and when she feels she isn’t succeeding in her mission she punishes herself by using medieval-level means. She hears God talking to her and what he (yes, he’s male) demands makes the viewer wonder if she’s found the correct spiritual entity. Moody, edgy, and theological, Saint Maud is another example of how horror and religion work together.
It’s one of those movies that, when you finish it you start looking around for someone to talk to about it. Of course, I watched it alone, wearing headphones, so I had dialogue with my own imagination. One of the founding principles of cinema was the realization that viewers liked to discuss what they’d just experienced. The other horror fans I know tend to be academics far removed from here. I don’t know any of them well enough to pick up the phone, or call up on Zoom, and say “Hey, let’s talk about Saint Maud.” The thing is, I understand some of the doubts and motivations of Maud. It’s always that way when religious interactions are with an invisible, petulantly silent deity. Kind of like watching horror movies alone.
Horror has proven to be a kind of therapy for me. The stresses of life are many and unrelenting. Watching someone even worse off can help, as long as it’s fiction. The world we’ve created is a very unfair place. Many people suffer so that a few can enjoy more than they deserve. Their lifestyle is protected by lawmakers that they buy while others suffer. I’d just spend a day hearing about such injustices, and then paying hefty bills, and it seemed that some weekend horror was just what the doctor ordered. I’ll probably watch Saint Maud again once I’ve had time to recover, and to think about the implications of the story. Horror and religion have a viable partnership. Such films occasionally become blockbusters, but sometimes they’re smaller affairs waiting to haunt us on weekends after hearing about the sad state of the Frankenstein world we’ve all created together.