ThinkMovies: Saint Maud

ThinkMovies: Saint Maud

by Alan Grant
article from Thursday 8, October, 2020

FRIENDS, the other critics who have seen and written about Saint Maud have put me in a bit of an awkward situation again. Like they did when talking about Booksmart, many of my colleagues appear to have witnessed a gem of a film whereas I have, well, not.

Phrases like “superb”, “spectacular”, and “brilliantly unsettling” have been thrown about in the movie press about this story of a young, religiously obsessive, nurse (Morfydd Clark) who becomes consumed both by her caring for her hedonistic, ex-dancer, client Amanda (Jennifer Ehle) and the dark, supernatural, forces that surround her. Critics have thus far praised the atmosphere, storytelling, and visuals in this gothic seaside tale of madness, obsession, and isolation and the consensus is that Saint Maud works well as a horror flick. 

Perhaps it’s the kind of thing that one has to have a media studies degree to understand but where others have seen a spectacular horror success, I have to say that I saw a film that was at most competent. Sure, there are some excellent sequences, the scenes during which Maud returns to her previous hellraiser ways and a couple more highlighting her descent into madness work well but they’re lost among the tedious nothingness that are Saint Maud’s quieter moments. New director Rose Glass has gone for bleak minimalism but has gone far too far and has left very little of interest on the screen for vast stretches of the tight runtime. 

There are other failures, particularly in the set design and some of the other visual choices, but they all revolve around a central feeling of the film being lacking something… and I think that ‘something’ is just that it’s not especially scary. 

I understand that scares are perhaps only second to laughs in terms of subjectivity. What one person finds scary, someone else may find tedious or boring, and that, I think, is what has happened with Saint Maud. Don’t get me wrong, I like the ‘kind of’ scares it’s going for – my preference for horror is always to be left wondering what I’ve just glanced off screen or what is about to happen rather than being subjected to a gory mess of monsters and ghouls. The thing about this kind of horror is that it’s very hard to achieve without leaving a movie feeling barren and that, sadly, is where Saint Maud falls down for me. It’s not bad, exactly, it just doesn’t succeed in what it tries to do. 

But, friends, while what each person finds scary in a horror flick will depend on their individual sensibility, there is something legitimately scary going on in the world of cinema that I think can be described as more or less universal.

Our cinemas are dying!

As I write this, from my flat in the west of Edinburgh, I am consciously aware that I am a mere ten minute walk from my local Cineworld cinema, which has been the venue for almost every movie I’ve seen since I first started ThinkMovies. At time of writing, the final screenings for the foreseeable future are either underway or about to be. The whole cinema chain is closing and we don’t know when, or indeed if, it is going to open again.

In a previous article for this site, I opined on how much I missed the movies but it never occurred to me just how much that meant Cineworld in particular. Cineworld, for many of us who are movie-goers, essentially is the cinema. When I think of all the amazing times and experiences I have had sitting in those iconic red seats I get genuinely choked up at the prospect of never sitting in them again. 

While this is a personal tragedy, I urge you not to feel too sorry for me. My income, livelihood, and professional future do not depend entirely on the future of Cineworld but there are thousands of people for whom they do, both on this side of the Atlantic and in the United States. Please, spare a thought for all those people and send them your best wishes and sentiments.

As things stand, I am currently in the early stages of trying to establish a way in which all of us who appreciate everything the Cineworld staff have done for us over the years, serving us dutifully and with a smile, can do something for them. I don’t yet know what form this fundraising will take, it is not exactly my area of expertise, but I want to at least try and do my bit. If anyone has any ideas, tips, or expertise in how I can do this – please get in contact with me, my Twitter account, with open DMs, and email address are at the bottom of this article. I urge you, please help. 

As things stand, I don’t know what the future of ThinkMovies is, I suspect I’ll continue to write about whatever comes out on streaming services or whatever, but if this can be the start of a campaign to save cinema, or even contribute to one, then I feel duty bound to help.

To each and every member of staff at Cineworld who has been affected by the awful news that we’ve all heard, I’m so deeply sorry. I’m sorry that the cowards behind the new Bond film have let you down, I’m sorry that audiences failed to rally behind you, and I’m so incredibly sorry if, for one moment, I didn’t appreciate you. I might not be able to do anything but I’ll do my best.

If you have any ideas or feel like you’d like to help, please reach out and we can try. The good people who have brought us the movies we love deserve at least that.

Alan Grant, our resident ThinkMovies critic, can be found here with a new review every Thursday evening. @alangrantuk #thinkmovies 

Email: alangrantcontact@gmail.com

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