Saint Maud

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership. How are you doing right now? I’ve seen.

S2: Charlotte created by. What’s in the box? Yo, yo.

S3: Hello and welcome to the Slate Spoiler special podcast. Today, we’re going to be talking about the new horror movie Sendt Mud. And joining me to talk about that movie are senior editor Jeff Blumer. Hi, Jeffrey. Hello. And on the phone with us or by Skype from New Hampshire, for the first time that I’ve ever spoiled with you, Ruth is Slate staff writer Ruth Graham.

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S1: Hello. Hello. I’m so happy to be here. I’m a I’m a frequent listener, so I’m excited to get in on a spoiling action.

S3: Oh, yeah. And I think this is a perfect first movie for you to spoil, because I think of you, among other things, as Slate’s religion correspondent. I mean, you have written quite a bit and reported quite a bit about issues of religion, faith, things that are crucial to understanding or at least being mystified by much. OK, as usual, I’m going to go around the table real quick and just ask if you guys liked or not. So we know what position we’re all arguing from. Personally, I loved this movie. I was really blown away, particularly knowing that it’s the first film of this 30 year old filmmaker, Rose Glass. What about you, Jeff?

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S4: I liked the movie quite a bit as well. I found it even as someone who sort of eagerly consumes movies like this, like especially hardcore, like I was kind of it is literally a scorched earth movie. And I, I have some reservations about it a little bit, maybe a little bit more than you. But I think it is an extremely impressive debut and definitely the first notable horror movie of the year.

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S3: And you are a horror connoisseur. Yes. OK, that’s good to know. That may come up later in the conversation as well, because I think in talking about this movie and letting people decide whether or not to see it, we should give some glimpse of, you know, how much excruciating they’re going to have to go through horror was. Ruth, what about you?

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S1: I liked it a lot. I’m excited to see what else this director does. I didn’t I think I didn’t quite love it as much as you or maybe Jeffrey can get into that. But I thought it was like a lot of dread, incredible atmosphere, great performances. But it didn’t quite surprised me. It didn’t feel as suspenseful as I as I wanted it to to feel.

S3: But I liked it a lot. Yeah. I mean, you could say that will get to the ending, obviously, because the spoiler special. But you could say that there’s a predictable path in the sense that there’s a sense of inevitable doom hanging over the movie. And because it’s a two hander, as we’ll get into those, is really there are other characters, but it really is just about the dynamic between these two characters. You pretty much know that one of them is probably not going to make it right. So let’s set up the story. We begin with this this very mysterious cold open that never quite explains itself, does I? Do either of you want to explain the first scary things that we see?

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S1: Yeah, sure. I mean, it opens there’s sort of this dingy operating room. You see Modde, the main character, you see. And you’ll have to help me with the pronunciation of this brilliant actress’s name. Morford class, I think is Morphet. Yeah. Morphet OK, a lot of this movie is her face and that also features very heavily in this called up. And she’s she has blood on her hands, blood on her face. She’s clearly shell shocked. She’s just gone through something very traumatic. She’s in some kind of like operating room or medical room. And there are just shots of there’s a bug like a big kind of cockroach looking bug crawling on the ceiling. She’s kind of hunched over in the corner and and just kind of, you know, recovering from whatever has just happened. And we don’t know. And then I think the shot that sort of takes us into then the main part of the movie, I think then it flashes, you know, Saint Modde. And then the first shot after that is also kind of a mysterious image of some like bubbling rediscuss liquid that we find out as tomato soup. And then, you know, that’s how we sort of enter into the the main part of the story. But we know that we will return to whatever the scene of this primal trauma is in the in those first shots.

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S3: That was a vivid description. But there’s one key image I think was there, which was the head isn’t don’t you see this body kind of lying on a gurney? Yeah. Yeah. You see, and I think the person has long hair that blood is dripping off of because I know that’s an image that comes up later that feels like it’s it’s familiar already when you see it.

S1: Yes, you’re right. She’s click. Yeah, there’s some there’s a dead body there and we don’t know what happened, but they both have blood on them, so. Yeah, right.

S4: Yeah. It seems like it’s a medical setting. So even though it’s never fully explained what happens, it seems sort of clear that, my God, I can’t remember if you can clearly see it, but it seems like she may be in a nursing home. We find out later that she is a nurse and that something happened. But it seems like that’s sort of the military that we’re looking at, as if she’s in sort of a medical situation that went south.

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S3: Right. And whatever happened, as we know from the regular part of the movie, when it starts, it wasn’t bad enough to get her, you know, put into criminal prosecution or something. I don’t think it’s suggested that she deliberately killed this person, but maybe that’s because of some sort of negligence or some unanticipated emergency. The person died in spite of her efforts. Right. Because whatever happened is intense enough that it’s caused her to convert to this very extreme form of Catholicism.

S4: Yeah, it seems like it also kicked her out of. Nursing is by self exile for a while, because it seems like the next guy that we’ll get into in a minute is where she goes after, like the first time she nurses again.

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S1: Well, and it was also bad enough. And I’m sure we’ll get to this. But her friend from this period is sort of surprised that she is back in nursing. So it must have been I don’t know if that means that her mental breakdown was so obvious at that moment or that, you know, because the friend, she runs into this friend on the street later who asks like, oh, do your current employers know what happened? So, yeah, I don’t know exactly what we’re we’ll get to that. I’m kind of relieved that neither of you have perfect clarity on that either, because I was wondering if I was supposed to if that was supposed to be perfectly resolved. So.

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S3: Right. I mean, it’s one of these movies that we haven’t mentioned this yet, but it’s 84 minutes long. It’s one of the things I most admired about this movie is it’s this slender little wisp of a movie, but a lot happens in those 84 minutes. But one thing that really doesn’t happen is, you know, anybody ever popping up to expose it, that first opening scene and how it relates to the second half of not half the entire rest of the movie. But but you do know from it is she was sufficiently traumatized that she changed her name from Kate to Maude. Right. Which was part of this conversion to Christianity, her own very intense form of Christianity that seems to be kind of self invented as she goes along, but that it didn’t get her, you know, thrown out of the profession entirely because she, as the movie begins, has become a home health aide on the way to meet her new patient.

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S4: Yes, I’m trying to recall the first scene when she’s there. So she we see her go to the house of Amanda, who is sort of this more modern dancer who seems to be I assume she has cancer. I don’t know if it’s totally clear what’s wrong.

S3: It’s a stage four lymphoma. Yeah, I think they do say that.

S4: And when she’s arriving, the previous nurses there and she sort of asks her how she is and she says that she’s I think it’s a British movie. So they use the C word to describe it. So you’re kind of like sort of already like bracing for the first encounters between the two of them. But then at first, when she meets her, she seems almost sort of lovely, like maybe a little prickly. But we should say that Amanda is played by Jennifer Ealy, who is sort of a beloved actress who, I don’t know, has gotten to a level of name recognition for everybody, but who is quite prolific both in theater and in movies. Last time I identified an actor by one thing, I got a very angry note about it. But I will say that I think she first became known to me as Elizabeth Bennet and the BBC Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth The Best Pride and Prejudice.

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S1: Definitely.

S4: So that’s that’s how I’ve always known her. But she’s she’s she’s quite prolific. And she will talk about her a lot, I assume, because her performance in this movie is quite a knockout. This is one of those horror movie performances that you could almost, almost almost imagine making it into an awards conversation because she’s so, so good.

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S3: Yeah. And I feel like so many Jennifer Ealy fans are out there waiting for her to get this kind of role. It’s not quite the lead. It’s a co-lead sort of, I guess. But I feel like she’s always getting put in supporting roles as some sort of smiling, serene woman in the corner and to see her get to really go to town on a role that’s so much darker and more complicated. And that is one of the great pleasures of this movie. Yeah, I agree. All right. So she arrives at Amanda’s, which we should mention is this almost Gothic style, really incredible. Set the house that sits high up on a hill in this seaside town, this sort of rundown seaside town. And inside the house is this it’s just it’s just like almost like Cruella De Vil house donations, right? I mean, it’s this sort of red, velvety carnal space that they’re really well suited to the character who represents, at least to all of these pleasures of the flesh. But do you want to describe the dynamic, Ruth, that arises between the two women after Matt arrives?

S1: Sure. Like Jeff said, it’s at first she’s very welcoming and warm and they have this almost kind of flirtatious relationship, or at least that’s what Amanda seems to be initiating. Amanda, you know, kind of probes and asks her about her faith. And she’s interested in what they there’s kind of an important scene early on where it’s obviously a very intimate relationship because modest caring for her and bathing her and cooking for her. There’s an early scene where Amanda gets very drunk with she’s on some kind of like date or get together with a friend who comes to visit her. And then afterwards, Meid cares for her. And they have this kind of intense conversation where mind starts to describe how God talks to her and she can hear him audibly. So we start to kind of understand more about this spiritual relationship that that man has. And then we also find out that MoD’s spiritual life is almost kind of is almost physical. I mean, it’s sort of an orgasmic. She has like an orgasm. Spiritual life, basically, so modern, Amanda, are kind of circling each other and talking to each other about, you know, death and God and these intense things, and it’s a very kind of warm, intimate and, you know, almost kind of sexy relationship at first. And, you know, Amanda is a very sensual, open, you know, kind of physical person. Her work has been physical and dance and is very, very, very tightly tightly wound, trying to keep sort of control all the time. And so they’re kind of circling each other in that in that initial relationship.

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S3: Yeah. At first there’s almost a romantic feeling between them, although I don’t think the movie is really necessarily implying that there is a lesbian attraction on on either side, although the Jennifer Ealy character is at least by, if not gay. Right. She has a man come to visit her. She also has a regular visit from a younger woman who seems to be her lover, but also seems to be taking money from her. And it’s a whole relationship that modde in all her priggishness finds absolutely contemptible.

S4: Yeah, the relationship there. I think that’s another point where the movie is sort of deliberately vague. But we have a pretty clear sense that Amanda is at the very least, not letting go of her sexuality, totally not letting go of sort of a libertine lifestyle, totally. She still is seemingly drinking and occasionally throwing parties and doing things like that pretty often. And she also does have a sexual relationship, which I wouldn’t say quite rises to the level of prostitution. But it seems a kind of a typical older artist, younger person sort of vibe to it. And it does seem pretty clear that they’re having sex. There’s a scene where Modde, where I think makes it a little bit more explicit that there is some sexual curiosity where more kind of watches. She’s sort of watching in horror because as maybe we’ll get to next, she’s sort of she sees herself as sort of someone who is going to save Amanda’s soul and she’s going to bring her to some sort of enlightenment before she dies. And so I think there’s an element to where she watches that sort of relationship and thinks this is her straying from the path to wherever it is that she wants her to go. But also, I do I did think there was a homoerotic tension to the way the two of us interacted. There’s a scene where that orgasmic relationship with God, it becomes explicit and they both sort of do that together. And you don’t know that you’re seeing mud, like imagining that Amanda is going along with the same thing. Or if Amanda’s just also pretending because it’s like fun, it’s sort of hard to say.

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S3: Yeah. I’m curious about your thoughts about that scene, Ruth, which is a moment that you seem to think that Maude is making some headway in her attempt to spiritually convert her employer. But but but then later, because Amanda is such a tricky character who always seems to be playing a cat and mouse game that she’s quite aware of. Right. She’s very self-aware at every moment. I found it somewhat hard to believe that she was simply attempting this mystical experience in communion with Maude, especially when later she seems to dangle that very moment over her and and tease her about it. Yes.

S1: Yeah. In the moment I read that as it’s kind of this very touching moment because I think Maude first praise for her and then just this as a bless Amanda’s body, which has done so many wonderful things, bless her mind, which is shrouded in darkness, kind of a passive aggressive prayer in front of her. But then Amanda does say, like, I can feel God here and it seems sincere to me in that moment. And then later she repudiates that and sort of suggests that she was lying. And it’s this devastating moment from God. But in the moment, I believed it. And they do have it seems like they both orgasm there or whatever, you know, this kind of spiritual, like, swelling moment together. And it’s that it’s very sensual. You know, I guess if it wasn’t sincere, it’s different. I read it as really happening, even if it’s a man sort of really faking it for the sake of, you know, maybe she wants it to be true. Amanda talks a lot about how she doesn’t know what death will be like and, you know, wanting to sort of make some meaning of her life. She’s in this intense struggle to that, a spiritual in its own way. But she’s much more of a, you know, kind of secular materialist than than modern. So I guess we don’t know what Amanda is really thinking there. But I did I did read that scene as sort of really happening, you know, within the as the movie would have it.

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S3: There is also the exchange of the bleak book between them, which seems like a moment of sincere spiritual connection. Right. That she Amanda, gives this book of illustrations by William Blake. I guess it’s the songs of innocence and experience or something. And we get a lot of close ups of the very mystical, strange, violent drawings of William Blake and a signature from Amanda saying to my saint, right, isn’t it? She’s my savior. Isn’t my savior.

S4: That’s right. Yeah. So see, Amanda’s always calling her savior and sort of I also read some sincerity in those early moments, although I think you’re right that there’s probably calculated sincerity ultimately given what we learned later. But the book, I think, is sort of a key piece also because it sort of helps. Telegraph, how much spirituality seems to be like on the fly? She seems to think of herself also as sort of someone who’s not involved in organized religion, sort of her own sort of savant who has a direct relationship with God. And her religious experience isn’t really tethered to anyone else’s or any kind of traditional experience of religion. And then that sort of informs her, seeing as her mission from God is to sort of convert Amanda or whatever it is that she wants to do before she dies.

S1: Yeah, which makes I noticed that, too. I mean, we never see mud, you know, in church or interacting with any clergy or participating in any kind of group, you know, organized religion. And it also makes like this perfect symbol who was also, you know, had visions throughout his life and devoutly religious in his own way, but also, you know, totally rejected organized religion. So he’s kind of an interesting symbol to be to be woven throughout. And I think eventually sort of cuts out figures from the book and puts them on her wall and her sad little drab apartment. But, you know, it gets a lot of meaning from from those images.

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S3: Yeah. She creates this shrine that continues to build throughout the movie. Right. That, as you say, doesn’t seem to have any connection to any orthodoxy whatsoever. And that becomes important in the second half of the movie when she is just alone, you know, essentially in her monk like little bedsit apartment, figuring out new ways to mortify her own flesh and eventually others as well. Let’s talk about how she gets kicked out of of Amanda’s place. That happens pretty early, I would say, in the first quarter of the movie or so. Yeah. And as a result of this this wild party gone wrong.

S4: Right. So the party set up is the sort of delicious scene where Maud confronts the, like, quasi girlfriend and sort of basically tells her that she has to stop seeing Amanda. And the girlfriend is the sort of like very cool, sort of like she seems like she’s an artist or runs in those circles. And just like is sort of like almost charmed by my little act about how she has to, like, stay out of the house. And it’s this funny stand off scene that is quite well performed. But it basically culminates in the girlfriend sort of agreeing where she just does that. She calls Amanda later and says, I can’t come over. And this sense, Amanda, into kind of a funk. And then the funk is sort of resolved eventually by Amanda throwing a big party that clearly harkens back to what her life used to be like.

S3: It’s her birthday, right? She gets out, think.

S4: Yeah. So yeah, I guess it is that. And she the party is very full of sin and miters not liking it at all. People are drinking heavily. It’s one of those like kind of intimate parties where everyone’s on like the legs of the couch and all gathering around her and laughing. Amanda seems drunk again and kind of calls Matt over and now calls her her savior. I believe in that scene in a way that’s suddenly finally takes on the mocking tone that we always sort of maybe sensed was there somewhere. And they go into a conversation. Ruth has seen the movie more recently. Maybe I can remember the specifics, but essentially it involves Amanda asking her to to pray for her.

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S1: What what exactly happened in front of everybody? I’m sure I actually can’t remember the exact content of that back and forth. But Amanda, like, calls her out and kind of embarrasses her publicly in a sort of mocking her faith somehow. And Matt ends up slapping her and then she’s, you know, fired on the spot. But it’s this very you described it so well. It is very departure. It seemed kind of like hell. You know, if we’re thinking in the in the, like, blake mode, it’s this it’s this very, like, hellish, hellish scene. And she has to leave immediately.

S4: Yeah. It’s quite a dramatic moment. Very, very well performed by both of the two hands here and with a great sense of danger.

S3: Right. I mean, when you say she slapped her and I realized, yeah, that’s true. That’s all that happened in that scene. But you think at that moment that somebody could get killed, somebody could get stabbed? There’s just that’s one of the moments when the moody creepiness of the rest of the movie builds into what you think is going to be a violent climax. Yes. So the next three quarters of the movie, sadly, Jennifer Ealy doesn’t appear again for a while and we miss her. But it’s an amazing film when she leaves the picture as well. I think because it gets into the space of Matt’s head and you start to get into this sort of subjective space where you’re not sure whether what’s happening is really happening or if it is only perceiving it. There also starts to be this voice of God that comes in occasionally spoken by apparently the bug that crawls across the wall of her apartment, recalling that bug from the beginning in the hospital scene. But but God really becomes this presence in the last three quarters of the movie in this, to me, quite unusual way. I can’t think of too many movies about faith, at least recently, you know, since the days of Brison and Bergman and, you know, the kind of filmmakers who addressed faith really head on that have filmed a spiritual struggle in this way. I thought it was really, really striking. Could you tell what language God was speaking in? I couldn’t tell. I actually asked the. After that, Jeff and I both saw the movie at a screening with a Q&A or maybe another Q&A, a reception afterwards with the director and I spoke with her briefly. And one thing I asked her was, what language was God speaking when he spoke through through Maude in that scene? And she said it was Welsh, straight up Welsh, which is Lawford’s Morphy, Clarkes, I guess, one of her languages. She’s a Welsh actress. And I guess a few enough people know Welsh that it sounded to me like it was Esperanto or some nonsense language invented for the movie.

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S1: Right. It’s like something running backwards, you know, like this sort of devilish.

S3: Yeah, well, it is morphic. Clark’s voice speaking Welsh that’s, you know, then digitally slowed down to sound sort of creepy, but yeah, only only Welsh viewers will know what the hell’s going on.

S4: Wow. That’s I wonder if that’s a tower, because what you’re describing also sets up what becomes the central tension of the movie where MoD’s spiritual like moments increasingly seem real. Like you, it’s the movie has this, like, dual tension. It’s like you were either watching someone amidst a mental breakdown or you’re watching someone who’s having an actual real spiritual awakening. I think you can debate you can say that the movie leans one way or the other. But as it goes on, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell because the represent the depiction in the movie becomes increasingly literal, including that scene. But if it’s if it’s somebody speaking Welsh, then I wonder if that is sort of meant to tip the hand a little bit in a way that I didn’t really think happened until the end of the movie.

S3: You mean tipped the hand that it’s her own madness speaking to her? Yeah. I mean, maybe for English viewers, that would be clearer.

S1: I didn’t I’m curious that I’m interested that that seemed ambiguous to me, because to me, one of the things that was a little disappointing to me about this was how clearly it seemed to me that it’s really just a story about mental illness and trauma. And I guess that’s kind of the cliche now, like every horror movie is like it’s really about trauma. But this movie really did seem to be about that. And I I wanted it to be a little bit more ambiguous, like, you know, is God really talking to her? What is she experiencing? Is there any is there any kind of like material or spiritual reality to these experiences? And to me, it did seem just a little bit too obvious that it’s her internal struggles and her mental illness. I just I kept thinking about the movie Personal Shopper, which came out a few years ago with the movie and that movie. You know, Kristen Stewart is a medium and there are a few scenes there where it seems like you really are seeing some kind of ghost or, you know, there’s other parts where she’s getting texts from. I think it turns out to be a stalker. But other scenes where you’re really seeing something happening in the world that I think that movie was really saying was really happening, or at least it was much more ambiguous to me in a much more mysterious way. And this movie did seem it seemed pretty clear to me, at least throughout, that this is just in my head.

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S4: That’s funny. I didn’t feel sure about that until the final shot, which is too early to get to, but we definitely have to talk about because it’s one of the most brutal endings I can remember and maybe any movie tenanted. Did you feel pretty sure the whole movie that it was all in her head?

S3: Yes, but I didn’t regard that as a flaw of the movie. I guess I would say. I mean, I didn’t think that this movie was raising the material question. Is God speaking to this woman in northern England the way that, as you say, Ruth, personal shopper, makes you ask the question, are there ghosts? Is she really communicating with the dead, et cetera, and left that mysterious right up until the last minute? But the idea that this is just a movie about someone going mad because of incidents of medical trauma and because of loneliness and because of who knows what other factors in her life, because we know so little about her. Right. Didn’t seem to me like flimsy material for a movie. I mean, it just the relationship between the two women and the relationship between Modin herself and her ideas of what religion might be seemed like plenty to make for, you know, enough conflict. I guess I didn’t need God to be real or not real to care about that story.

S1: Yeah, that’s a good point. And I did really love how I mean, she Modarres using all of these sort of religious original religious rituals, some of them kind of self created. And in some she’s like drawing on Catholicism. And it’s a way initially, it seems, for her to really keep herself tightly in control. And then later it becomes this way of her mental illness just, you know, becomes a way for her to, like, unleash herself and like a motif for her to express all of the trauma and pain that she’s experiencing. So you’re right, it’s not necessarily a weakness, but it it’s something I guess I did wish that I were a little more that was a little more suspenseful throughout. I felt like I sort of got that it was mental illness.

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S4: That’s funny. It’s funny because when you guys talk about personal shopper being mysterious, I thought they were definitely ghosts and maybe have to start with these things.

S3: No, I did, too. I did, too. But you agree that the movie dangles the possibility?

S4: Yes, it’s in both movies. I think it’s deliberately a. Ambiguous in your mental question, I guess I just thought that this movie balance the scales a little more than you guys did, but I think it’s, you know, up for debate.

S3: Can we talk a little about the modifications of the flesh that she put herself through? Because really in this last part of the movie, Mod kind of goes medieval on her own ass. Right? I mean, she kind of becomes this this monastic self-torture. And again, she seems to be making it up on the fly. But but there’s some really memorably awful things that she does to herself.

S1: Well, we see a little bit in the first section of the movie where she spells out some popcorn on the floor and then kneels on it to pray, like in her bare knees, I think. So you see this little hint of like that. This is part of her her practice. But then after she leaves, it escalates the most memorable one. She sort of takes apart her shoes and puts thumbtacks, I guess, through the soles facing upwards and then slides her feet into them and walks around this little seaside town that she lives in. And it’s kind of this secret, you know, the secret kind of perversion and self flagellation that she’s that she’s performing.

S4: Yeah. I mean, that is such a showstopping body horror moment. I think that, like in the classical kronenburg sense, body horror can be really effective. I think that there are times when it’s done to ill effect, but here it’s like perfect. And I’m sorry to do this, but sometimes we play music during our spoiler, especially to give people a sense. And the the most horrifying part of that scene, other than when she’s walking around, you know, she has spikes in her foot is the initial sound that it makes. And the sound is available on the Internet. And my friends are all calling this movie The Squish because it’s in the trailer. And I think for listeners, we should play the CW. So everybody kind of second hears the squish.

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S5: I feel full of your love than ever before.

S3: I did not want to relive that moment even in purely auditory form, but I have to say that this discussion about the squish and the nails and the shoes is reminding me of the restraint that I admired in that portion of the movie, because I think a lesser movie that really just wanted to gross you out with visuals would have shown you what it looked like when she took off her shoe. And I was waiting for that, waiting for the shoe to drop literally, and that we were going to have to see this horrible infested cut up foot that she had from walking around. But but that never happened. So in this part of this movie’s 84 minute slimness, is that it sometimes spares you things that you think you’re inevitably going to have to see and experience. And sometimes the body horror is done digitally in a very subtle way. For example, the few times maybe this happens two or three times throughout the movie, that modde opens her mouth slightly wider than any human mouth could actually open. Did you guys notice that it’s when she’s sort of either in ecstasy or in some sort of pain or anguish or vomit? And and her yeah, her mouth becomes this kind of monstrous cavern, but only just for a second so that you yourself think, well, am I what am I seeing things and going crazy.

S4: Yeah, definitely. And I think also it’s worth noting that the movie becomes increasingly disorienting, like the camera’s flipping around as monologues around town and you’re sort of more and more in her head. She also has lapses in these scenes where she sort of goes to a bar at one point and gets kind of drunk. And she’s at first a kind of almost place funny, like she gives a handjob in the bathroom in a scene that sort of played for laughs with this actor. And then things go really dark and become literal. And there’s a rape scene that kind of sneaks up on you that comes out of nowhere. That’s really disturbing. And so she’s descending in ways that are also her interacting with the world increasingly. And that sort of culminates in a scene where she starts stalking Amanda’s nurse.

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S3: I have one thing to say before we move on from her crazy night on the town right where she suddenly decides, like you say, to go and just essentially pick up whoever she can pick up in a bar. Right. And that scene, the scene that you describe as a rape scene, which it is in part, but it also ends with a horrible fantasy. Right. About her sort of applying, I don’t know, CPR to this guy that she’s on top of. And then his chest caves in and this horrific way. And that seemed to me like it might be, among other things, a repressed memory, something reaching back to whatever happened to that mysterious person in the very first shot.

S1: Yes, I took that as far as maybe exactly what happened, you know, that she was trying to revive because, yeah, it’s almost like she’s she’s doing CPR and like, his chest caves in and and that’s when she kind of like checks out of the sexual encounter. And then it turns very dark after that. We also get a little hint of her past life in that scene because the man, the second man that she hooks up with sort of says like, oh, I used to see you out and about and kind of implies that she was like a little bit slutty or something like he’s been kind of joke, jokey and degrading about it. But we sort of get this sense of her of her past life with more of a social life.

S4: Yeah, I guess I skipped ahead a little bit. There’s also that friend. Who else is the one that Ruth mentioned before who helps sort of explain a former nurse friend who sort of invites her out, but they never really end up meeting up until a scene later on. But we sort of do get a sense that she used to be more of like a normal fun Welsh nurse.

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S3: I suppose as Welsh nurses go, yeah, that friend goes to visit her increasingly creepy apartment. Right. Sees the shrine, etc. and and they have another of those really laden tension laden moments like the party at Amanda’s house. Where didn’t you both think during that scene that she was going to somehow go off and commit some act of violence on the friend?

S4: Oh, yeah. So at this point in sort of like a nod toward what’s to come, Martha seems to become fixated on the picture from that book that shows like self-immolation or certainly somebody being burned. And she has this like very large vat of some sort of chemical. And that scene where they’re standing in this tiny apartment, you’re just waiting. You’re like, get out of this apartment. You’re just waiting for her to lighten up.

S3: Yeah. And again, that was some restraint on rose glasses part to let that woman get away. Right.

S1: And make us wait a little longer. Yeah, the friend is so Normy, there’s this I love this moment where she looks at the shrine and she’s like, oh, I love this, you know, just sort of keep score. Like, this is so cool. You’re just like, get out of there, girl.

S4: Yeah, the friend seems concerned about her, but eventually just kind of does sort of take the hint and leave. And we I don’t think we see her again.

S3: No. What about the scene? I wasn’t quite sure what one scene was doing in this very economical movie where in general everything belongs. And if anything, you would like a little bit more time. But I didn’t quite get the scene of her going down to the wharf or wherever it was sitting on a bench. And she has a conversation with a stranger there. Right. And she seems to spot is it is it Amanda? Jennifer Ealy in the wheelchair. Or with the different caretaker that she spots, or is it just another person who reminds her that is the caretaker?

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S1: So she spots Jennifer Lee in the distance with this woman. And then later, I think it’s the same nurse, that’s Jennifer Elys, current nurse, that modde sort of quasi stocks or maybe I can’t remember if it’s presented as a coincidence or if Matt has sort of been following her, but that I think that is her kind of confronting Jennifer Elisse current nurse and being kind of disgusted, I think, with how she’s not you know, she doesn’t see her as a as a proper caretaker.

S4: Yeah, I think that’s right. I think it’s just once that happens, when you were just saying that, I was wondering if it was too. But I think it’s explicitly her and they talk a little bit about her. And then Modern’s ends the conversation and like a very sort of like ominous like run away kind of way. And the woman’s like, oh, and then that sort of leads up to, I guess, the finale, right?

S3: Yeah. I mean, I think we have to we have to get to the confrontation between the two women, which you’ve been waiting for for all this time. And then like so much else, toward the end of this movie, it happens so swiftly that even though I’m a little scared to see it again, I want to see the movie again just to understand how these events in the last 15 minutes or so unfold. So she waits until that other caretaker is leaving the house to do some kind of errand. We see her kind of lurking on the the lawn of the Gothic mansion and then making her way in. And Ruth, do you want to since you’ve seen it more recently, tell us what her very last confrontation with with Amanda is like.

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S1: Yeah. So she goes in there and Amanda is much sicker. It’s sort of she’s declined noticeably since we saw her last. And they have this conversation at first. Amanda seems sort of glad to see her and she apologizes for how things ended. And it seems like, well, maybe we’ll get this nice kind of resolution here, but eventually the conversation turns. And Amanda is is pretty brutal with saying like, there’s no God, nothing you do matters. And that’s been I think it’s important for me to think that her pain is being used. I mean, that’s something that she articulates a few times in the kind of prayer voiceover that we hear throughout the movie that she wants her her son never waste your pain something. Never waste your pain. Exactly. And so to me, that red as as sure of the most devastating thing that Amanda could say to her, that there’s sort of no meaning to this pain and also that there’s no afterlife. And then we see it. I mean, it really scared me this moment after the sort of slow burn suspense, like a really shocking moment where Amanda, we see Amanda sort of turn into a demon and she starts to, you know, her voice changes. It becomes this man’s voice that’s kind of like evil male voice and modde stabs her and we don’t see it. It happens pretty fast. We don’t see the exact mechanism. But I think it’s like with a scissors or it was it was there like a scissors in her neck. I kind of had to cover my face.

S3: Yeah, I got the impression. I mean, again, it might just be the economy of the movie, but I agree it almost happened too fast. And I’m not one who wants to linger over Gore and these kind of movies at all. But but it’s not really even physically clear how she was able to have the strength to kill her, especially because Amanda is shown at that moment that she becomes sort of demonic as having this. I can’t visually how it’s established, but that she has this.

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S1: She does she has this kind of new energy during that moment. But I mean, is that I don’t know that that’s I took it as that sort of that wasn’t really happening, that Amanda herself was still this weakened body.

S3: I mean, you’d have to then you have to ask the question, how much of this is really happening? Was it even the case that Amanda, you know, turned on her and started to say all these very nihilistic things about the nonexistence of God? I mean, it’s so quickly turns from a somewhat tender encounter to this awful hostile and ultimately murderous one that you have to ask yourself, when did the slippage from reality begin?

S4: Yeah, I think I will say my I thought it was a great set piece like it was the movie is like big jump, scary moments, but it was very, very Ernes and very satisfying. And Amanda turning into the sort of cackling an exorcist like figure, like a devil who’s just tempted her. Basically the set up for it, I think, is that she makes her question, her faith, that there’s a moment where matters like maybe Amanda’s right and then she turns into a devil and she’s like, that was easy and it’s disgusting and horrible, but also kind of fun in a perverse way. But, yeah, I didn’t I do agree that all of a sudden was over, but it seemed very clear to me from the moment that modde was sort of slowly, glumly walking up the steps to the mansion that Amanda was going to be dying in a few minutes.

S3: Yeah, I guess the only question would be, you know, would there be some way that they would both not make it out? Right. But but in fact, it is I guess you would say Saint Maude, who’s the victor in that situation. And then the movie very quickly rolls to it’s even more horrifying conclusion. Jeffrey, do you want to take some of this bit? I mean, at this point, there’s. Only after Amanda’s death, there’s maybe only five minutes left in the movie, right?

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S4: Yeah, at this point we’re marching toward what we have already a pretty clear sense of what’s coming. I think there’s no doubt that Modesty’s herself needs to go up in a ball of flames. It’s telegraphed in a lot of little ways. You see, the chemicals in the pitcher comes back a couple of times from the book. From what I recall, she just wandering around town for a bit. Well, don’t forget the garment, all right?

S1: She puts on she puts on a flowing white garment for which I think she was wearing that to Amandas because it might be right.

S3: I think possibly so. I mean, we see her arranging it earlier. At least she has these kind of everything in her. Her apartment is very beige. I love the visual contrast between the blankness of her apartment and the kind of lush, velvety textures of of Jennifer Ealey, Amanda’s apartment. But she puts on these kind of beige bedsheet. Right, with a cross over it. So she looks sort of like a medieval monk or a nun. Yeah. With a rosary necklace. And yeah, I think maybe that’s already been established as her outfit. And they show townspeople looking at her askance as she walks the streets dressed that way.

S4: Yeah, she’s wandering very deliberately and slowly and seems to have sort of found this kind of ecstasy. It doesn’t it’s not a particularly grim moment, even though we know we kind of have a sense of what’s about to happen. It seems like she feels like she’s reached actualisation and then so they’re on what is, I guess, a Coney Island in the UK somewhere, a New Yorkers see it and think of, you know, the one that we have.

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S3: But apparently there are many the town is is great that it’s filmed in. It’s called Scarbro. I looked it up because it’s such a unique location and and it really looks like that they didn’t have to dress the locations or anything. It’s just a run down old beach resort that looks exactly that way.

S4: Yeah, it’s absolutely perfect timing for this movie. There’s just there’s a lot of atmosphere that we can’t fully describe here that you have to see for yourself in the movie. But there’s a lot of scenes were modest, just kind of walking around town being sort of flighty and upset. Seems like and so much of it is informed by the surroundings, the sort of ratty old neon signs.

S3: And, yeah, just this place that seems to have been a pleasure palace town many decades ago.

S1: And we never do know why Jennifer Elys character lives there. Right? I mean, she sounds American. And there’s a scene where Modde says, like what? You know, what does she see in this place? She must see this as kind of as depressing as I see it. And I don’t think we ever really know why she lives in this old, you know, crumbling mansion there.

S3: I think that there’s a tossed away line early on and I’d have to see it again. But I think Jennifer Eley herself says something. I mean, everything she says is kind of mordantly sarcastic. But she says some tossed off line about the ridiculous how she’s in. And you get a sense that either she has to live there because she inherited it and she has nowhere else to go. You don’t get the sense that this is her longtime home, but more that it’s a place that she’s ended up at the end of her life because it’s there for her.

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S4: Yeah, you sort of do wonder because when she throws that party, there do seem to be a lot of like London folk who just like magically descend on the space. So maybe it’s not that far away. It’s unclear.

S3: But yeah, I think that goes with the magical feeling of the movie in general. Right. I mean, it doesn’t take place in a particularly realistic setting. It’s true. It feels like this. It feels like a stage set. Right. I mean, for this to hinder play and there’s not really a lot of context established for who Mort is, how she got there, what kind of family she comes from. We know nothing about that. Right. So you have to kind of accept a lot of artificiality to to get to this encounter between these two women.

S4: Yeah, I think that’s right. And so she’s in this town. She’s the neon hued, gritty, sort of lost tone in her, like flowing beautiful, like elegant garments. And she’s sort of marching around until she gets she got well, she goes back to her apartment, I suppose, to get her large vat of chemicals.

S3: And then she goes, which I thought the whole time was going to be some sort of acid that she was going to try to melt herself down with or some other people. Like when her friend comes to the apartment, I thought we were going to end up with some horrible Raiders of the Lost Ark melting person image.

S4: I don’t know why, but I just felt very sure that this is going to involve fire. But she goes onto the beach and maybe Ruis, since this is a very the image is quite in foreign village in France, you should take us out with describing it.

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S1: Yeah, she’s she’s on the beach. We see this flash, I think maybe just in the apartment of these kind of glowing wings that she has so clearly in her mind. Yeah, she’s like ascending. She’s becoming purer and purer and closer to God. And so she she walks out to the beach, then she looks up and there’s this swirling kind of porthole in the sky, you know, maybe sort of something like Portal to Heaven. And it’s an image we’ve seen before. At one point she sees it, I think, in her beer and at the and the drunken depressing night out. So it’s an image that she has had in her mind. But she looks up and she sees it almost like she’s being called up to heaven. She I’m trying to remember exactly what order all this happens. And but she does this herself with the. Concoction and then all the people on the beach kind of turn toward her and like bow down before her kind of acknowledging her holiness is how it reads to me. And then she lights herself on fire and the very, very last cut. I hope if I’m missing anything there, you guys can jump in. But the very, very last shot of the movie, I mean, it’s literally like one second is it cuts between this kind of the beautiful flames, I think, of how God would like to imagine this moment, this moment of like total spiritual transcendence. And then it cuts to her actual burning body, which, of course, is gory and not beautiful and not glamorous, not transcendent and just sort of pure horror shot. And then that’s the very last moment of the movie.

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S3: Yeah. And it’s an incredibly economical ending. I mean, I almost even though it was meant to be scary and was scary, almost laughed, it just the suddenness of that one second long shot and then the movie ending. There’s just such an assuredness, I think, on those glasses part in giving us so little and yet letting it have such an impact at Fantastic Fest, where this show, apparently it was a big hit and people love that last scene. And that just really pleases me because this movie doesn’t go that heavy on the Gore. It’s not trying to top any other movie. You know, it just seems to know exactly what it wants to be.

S4: I agree. But I also just I think we should emphasize that it is just sort of an impossibly brutal moment. It goes from sort of the a divine rapture into all of a sudden seeing just her scream and that scene and her like she’s like kind of convulsing and her skin is tearing off and she screams this horrible scream. And then the movie goes to black. Right. And it is it is an extremely haunting moment that I constantly have. Think about since you mentioned before that we wanted to sort of prime this for people who are a little bit more reluctant with horror movies. And we have a thing it’s like called the scary scale, where we rated based on different categories because people are scared by different things. But this movie takes like every single box and that’s spell and like really makes this movie to be so much more horrifying. I think I have a particular thing about people burning alive. I guess I don’t know why. I just I particularly don’t like it among all of the gory categories.

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S3: But it’s pretty bad when you go.

S4: I know, but everyone has their thing that they particularly have a hard time with in movies, and that’s one of mine. So that’s true.

S1: But it is about the scab scene was so much worse where she’s like slowly picking off this burn, which to me, you know, you’re right, everyone has their own thing. That to me was so much harder to watch them than this.

S4: But it’s interesting, but it is quite a hard core ending. I watched and I was like, damn, like Rose Glass is here to play.

S3: This is like a serious I’m actually impressed that somebody who’s a real horror connoisseur felt that way because I really admired the ending too. But I had this feeling, especially hearing that it had played at Fantastic Fest, wondering whether, you know, Edge Lords who want to prove that they’re more they dig horror deeper than anyone else would regard it as too slight or too, you know, sort of not enough to be to be truly scary when I think it’s the not enough ness that that makes it so scary. Also, of course, the entire film, as we’ve talked about, has been this this battle between the material and the spiritual, between what is really happening and what might be happening only in my head. And that last shot, that just second long last shot of basically sort of a screaming near skeleton just takes you completely back into the realm of materiality, like here’s what was happening all along, you know? And I suppose that you could choose to what degree to to interpret the rest of the film backwards from that image. But there’s no question that what’s being drawn right there is this very sharp line between, you know, the ascension that’s happening in MoD’s head and just the sheer self-immolation that’s happening on the beach.

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S1: That’s exactly how I read it. The whole movie has been slipping back and forth between mods, you know, desperation to create some kind of spiritual meaning out of her, her very drab and frightening and and at times traumatic life, loneliness. And she’s just spinning, spinning this meaning and this beauty out of it or attempting to. We didn’t even talk about the scene at the end. I think it’s at the end of her night out where she levitates in her apartment. And so, you know, you see you’re sort of seeing these, like, magical things happening around not all the time. And at the end, it’s just very clear, like here’s what was really happening. Like, here’s the the ugliness. You know, you see just this shock. Second of of the pure ugliness that is that is reality.

S4: Yeah. That talking to the two of you, I’m wondering if the movie tipped his hand a little earlier. But to me, that’s exactly how I read that scene, is that if you can question whether or not these like spiritual occurrences and these orgasmic sort of prayer sessions are real and that final shot, it’s very clear what the movie thinks is happening.

S3: Yeah. And you start to think, well, wait, it was a movie about mental illness all along. Yes, right.

S1: And I wonder if I’m just thinking this through now, but if if my is like cutting away to that, too, because it’s one thing to think. About how beautiful it will be to set yourself on fire, you know, if you’re caught up in this in this mental illness, but then when you really do it, you know, my guess is that there would be sort of a jump cut in her own experience, too, as she’s.

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S3: Oh, that’s horrifying to think about. I wish for my sake that she at least went to her maker to imagining the first thing. Well, one thing I think that I can safely say from this movie is that I’m really excited to see what Rose Glass does next. I mean, such an assured debut, even if you don’t think everything about this movie is perfect, you you can’t deny that it has a voice, a very individual voice. And even though it seems so influenced by classic horror, like The Exorcist or as I was saying, by the kind of Burgmann Bressan spiritual film tradition of the 60s, it also just feels original and new.

S4: I agree. I think especially just her formal assurance, like everything we’ve described, probably makes some of you sound pretty tans. But because of the way the camera toward the end is like always offers access and kind of following my mind is like walking on the ceiling. And there’s like all kinds of things that like a flipping reality around. And the movie just visually suffocates you more and more as it goes on. And it’s very clear that she is it seems I try to find out more about her and it seems like she just went up through a very traditional way. She’s like made short films for ten years, went to film school and she studied up. And now she made a great movie, which is so refreshing. She’s not like some person plucked out from, like doing a music video or something. She’s just somebody who, like some of her favorite filmmakers and really, like, just developed a voice. And she’s made a fairly knockoff, especially from a visual perspective debut feature.

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S3: Yeah, I did not know that she’d come up through film school like that, but I know she only has short films to her name before this. And yeah, it’s a pretty smashing debut. It made me think of Jennifer Kent’s Babadook just in the sense that it’s a woman filmmaker making her very first movie. It’s a smashing debut and it’s a psychological horror thriller.

S1: Yeah, I agree. I can’t wait to see what else what else she does, even if I didn’t think this movie was perfect. But I was riveted by it. And I am very, very excited to see where she goes from here.

S3: All right. Well, thanks to both of you for coming in to spoil this with me. If she does make another movie, well, we’ll talk about it in the future, I hope. Yeah, sounds good.

S4: I love that this is fun.

S6: If you like this episode, please don’t forget to read us and review us in the Appalachian store or wherever you get your podcast that helps new people discover our show. And for our Slate plus members, it is survey time again. That means it’s your chance to tell us what you think about Slate plus and Slate. This will only take a few minutes. It helps us make the site better. You can find it at Slate Dotcom serving. Our producer today was Morgan Flanary, Project Blumer and Ruth Graham. I’m Dana Stevens. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you soon.