It’s been fairly the journey for Rose Glass‘s feature debut. After a highly successful and buzz-worthy festival run, her psychological, religious horror film was scheduled for U.S. release in April last year. Thanks to a pandemic, the release date shifted to July, then the film was pulled from the schedule entirely. Meanwhile, its October 2020 release in the U.K. only built anticipation up further, with Saint Maud (read our review) landing in the number one slot on Letterboxd’s highest-rated horror films of 2020. Lastly, one in every of 2020’s most talked-about horror films arrives in restricted theaters on January 29, adopted by an EPIX launch on February 12, 2021.
Saint Maud stars Morfydd Clark within the eponymous position. Maud is a pious nurse assigned to look after a semi-reclusive terminal affected person named Amanda Kohl (Jennifer Ehle). Amanda nonetheless adores life and all its vices, nonetheless, and overtly mocks Maud’s religious religion. It triggers a deep fascination in Maud that shortly turns into obsession. As Maud’s obsession spirals, the most important query turns into whether or not her profound reference to God is actual or imagined.
Whereas Maud’s religion is the driving drive of this ambiguous and unsettling horror film, Glass avoids the same old spiritual horror tropes largely as a result of Maud is new to faith and collects bits of it that she likes. When talking to Bloody Disgusting about her movie, Glass shared, “I wasn’t interested in telling the story of a young woman who gets embroiled in a community of religious people. Technically yes, there are Christian building blocks, but she’s essentially created her own. It’s as much about self-care and survival and making sense of the world as about faith, I guess. The more she becomes detached from reality, the more it becomes dangerous.”
To create the ambiance, Glass did look to different movies for some inspiration, “Not too many, to be honest. For sure, in terms of visual language, tone, and style, things like Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby. The Devils by Ken Russell. And also, things like Taxi Driver, but that’s not a horror film.”
Extra vital than the movie’s visible language is its pronounced ambiguity, and Glass explains her strategy in placing the proper stability to realize that, “The relationship between Maud and God is where the whole story originated from. Originally, you heard the voice of God more, and it was a whole fleshed out character, but I became more interested in exploring that through Maud’s perspective. I wanted her relationship with God to be tangible and relatable in a weird sort of way? I know it’s weird, but her faith is not a cerebral, psychological, theological thing. It’s an instinctual, sensual one. So, the idea of her relationship with God taking on a physical sensation made sense to me. I wanted it to appeal to people who believe in God and people who don’t, and that even if you don’t have faith, you can relate to the idea of finding happiness and, by extension, ecstasy in connecting with something bigger than yourself.”
One of many distinctive ways in which God appears to manifest for Maud is in a cockroach that inhabits her condominium. Glass reveals that the cockroach, credited as Nancy, wound up providing serendipitous inspiration. “Nancy’s my hero; she’s my favorite cast member, outside of Morfydd maybe. No, I’m joking! Nancy wasn’t in the original script; all the scenes with her were shot later in pickups. In the main chunk of the shoot, we were filming a scene where Maud and Amanda are chatting in Amanda’s bedroom late at night, taking place early in the film. A couple of days before, I’d had this pretentious last-minute idea to have a moth fluttering around the lamp. So, my line producer said they’d see what they could do. He came back to me and said he’d found an insect wrangler, who said there are no moths this time of year, but they have cockroaches and crickets. Great! Bring her in. I selected Nancy, who was in a box with another cockroach named Sid – it was Sid and Nancy. Anyway, we tried some shots where Jennifer’s talking to Morfydd with Nancy crawling around on a pillow next to her. In the end, it didn’t work. It looked like a half-baked idea, which it was. We ended up cutting Nancy out. But later on, I realized I needed a scene where God kind of appears to Maud later on, and we had to decide what form God would take. I knew exactly who to call.”
See Nancy the cockroach in motion when Saint Maud releases on January 29, 2021.