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Saint Maud

7/10

Stars: Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle, Lily Frazer, Turlough Convery, Lily Knight

Director: Rose Glass

Hold on to your Halloween masks, but this may be the scariest British horror movie since Hammer hung up its shroud decades ago. And Morfydd Clark's quiet intensity works so much better in this role than her anodyne parts in last year's David Copperfield riff.

She's Maud, a clearly disturbed carer, tagged with looking after the hedonistic and embittered Amanda (Ehle), a retired dancer dying from cancer in her cloistered mansion, whose eternal soul the troubled Maud soon determines to save. Is Maud mentally ill, or is she really eerily communicating with God, sometimes in orgasmic, shape-shifting ecstasy? Is she to be pitied, admired, or feared? Clark keeps us guessing as to whether or not this women is the prey of her own delusions.

Horror fans are well catered for, with some shock moments and graphic tableaux of gore, while the oppressive atmosphere of dread is truly shivery and well sustained.

Not that the film is without its faults. The pacing is methodical to a fault (okay, okay, I mean slow) and the gloomily dark camerawork may not be to everyone's tastes. Great to see the too-often wasted talent of Ehle, though, given something into which she can really get her teeth. She's as compelling as Clark in this creepy sideshoot from those Exorcist-type movies of times gone by.

David Quinlan

UK 2019. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Colour (unspecified).
84 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 10 Oct 2020