For die-hards, no horror movie can be too scary. But for you, a wimp, the wrong one can leave you miserable. Never fear, scaredies, because Slate’s Scaredy Scale is here to help. We’ve put together a highly scientific and mostly spoiler-free system for rating new horror movies, comparing them with classics along a 10-point scale. And because not everyone is scared by the same things—some viewers can’t stand jump scares, while others are haunted by more psychological terrors or simply can’t stomach arterial spurts—it breaks down each movie’s scares across three criteria: suspense, spookiness, and gore.
This time: Saint Maud, the debut feature from Rose Glass that A24 has finally set for release (after a long COVID delay) in select theaters and drive-ins this weekend, and on Epix on Feb. 12. The movie is the warped tale of a young woman (Morfydd Clark) who feels Jesus welling up inside her, and, uh … quite enjoys it. She takes her particular divinity as a sign she’s meant to save the soul of her terminally ill nursing patient (Jennifer Ehle), a former dancer and socialite who has her own agenda. This all does not go well. How scary is this nasty little number, which Slate’s Dana Stevens dubbed “the best horror movie of 2020” and also “the first great movie of 2021”? Read on.
The suspense in this movie is more of the low-key, horrible dread kind, because you know it ain’t going anywhere good, but there is at least one good shock for the jump-scare averse.
There is medical blood, maiming, and elaborate sequences of messianic self-harm, including one bit with an in-shoe spike pad that produces a truly horrible sound effect, which friends and I have taken to calling “the squish.”
For the haunting final image alone, this one has stuck with me, and there are so many disturbing bits here that I rate it as a moderate-to-high risk of long-term pain for the scaredy challenged.
We say this a lot in these parts, but your mileage may vary with Saint Maud: It’s part body horror, part Jesus freakout, part erotic thriller, part art film. It will be quite manageable for some and a nightmare for others. (Me, Clark’s tremulous performance alone was enough to spook me into next week.) One rule of thumb: If you thought the scariest part of Carrie was when Piper Laurie threw Sissy Spacek in the God closet, you’re in trouble.