Welcome back to Knockout Horror and to another “Horror Movie Ending Explained”. Today we will be taking a look at the bleak and depressing British Psychological Horror Saint Maud.
Saint Maud has a somewhat confusing ending. To be honest, the entire movie is a little perplexing. There is an air of ambiguity rolling throughout the entire narrative and the ending only serves to further bolster that.
In this article, I give my opinion on the events and, more specifically, the ending to Saint Maud and attempt to clear things up a little for you. Please keep in mind that this is only my opinion and I could be fantastically wrong. Also keep in mind that there will be spoilers in this article as it is impossible to discuss the end without referencing the events of the movie.
If you haven’t watched Saint Maud yet then why not have a look at our spoiler free review and, if it seems like something you would enjoy, check the movie out? People in the UK can watch as part of their subscription on Amazon Prime by clicking the link. Viewers from the USA also have Saint Maud included as part of their Amazon Prime subscription so, again, click the link to watch. If you are not a subscriber, feel free to click the links anyway and you should be able to grab a 30 day free trial, if eligible, and you will be contributing to the running costs of Knockout Horror while you do it so thanks in advance.
It’s Been Awhile; Again!
I haven’t posted on here in such a long time. Life just seems to be getting in the way and I would really like that to change. I aim to post on Knockout Horror a lot more in the future and would, ideally, like to build this site up into a comprehensive unbiased independent resource for horror movie reviews.
Too many sites are either in the pockets of the publishing teams or want to make an affiliate sale so will be overly positive. Finding honest reviews is becoming more and more difficult. The disparity between the average person’s opinion of a movie and the opinion of the sites that review them is becoming much wider. I have no affiliation with anyone. I don’t care about making a sale. I am just a dude in his 30s; a little bit jaded by the recent horror scene and brutally honest. A lot of people probably won’t agree with my opinions but I will give them anyway because that’s why you came.
Putting all of that bullshit aside, you came here to read an explanation of the Saint Maud ending so let’s get to it! I will go over what has happened so far in Saint Maud as a recap but if you have only just watched the film, feel free to skip to the What Happened section.
Events So Far
Saint Maud follows a short period in the life of the eponymous Maud. Maud, formerly known as Katy, is an ex nurse who now works in personal palliative care for a world famous dancer and choreographer called Amanda. Amanda is suffering from a terminal disease and requires round the clock care.
We are offered only glimpses into Maud’s past but it would appear that she was involved in a serious incident at her former place of employment. Meetings with an old acquaintance suggest Maud suffered from some form of mental health crisis after a patient that she was performing CPR on passed away. She was apparently forced out of her job and virtually disappeared from her former social circle.
Maud’s past suggests that, before this incident, she was something of a party girl who drank too much and lived a risky, and promiscuous, life. She now lives alone in a tiny, dilapidated, bedsit as a pious Roman Catholic adhering to a strict lifestyle and engaging in acts of self flagellation.
We are introduced to the contrasting dynamic of Maud and Amanda’s personalities through their interactions. Maud is a pious Christian with a strong belief in God. Amanda is an atheist with a fear of passing away into an empty void. Maud believes she can save Amanda’s soul and so tells Amanda about her beliefs and that she actually physically feels God and can prove he is real. Amanda goes along with Maud, follows Maud’s instructions and suggests that she can feel God too. They share an intense moment together where they are almost orgasmic at the feeling of God inside them.
Things Go Awry
Maud comes to notice that Amanda is sharing a sexual relationship with another woman called Carol. Maud worries that this relationship, and the exchanging of money for sex, will jeopardise Amanda’s soul. Maud requests that Carol never come back and that she gives up her relationship with Amanda to save her soul.
Carol appears to agree to never come back but, at a party arranged by Amanda, it becomes clear that Carol did the exact opposite and told Amanda what had happened and what Maud had said. Amanda embarrasses Maud in front of the guests and makes it clear that she believes Maud to be a homophobic zealot. Maud strikes Amanda and leaves the job.
A Return to the Past
Maud, feeling lost and alone due to the events of the party, goes out to a pub to find companionship. She engages in heavy drinking, attempts to call a friend but is rejected, and ends up going home with a man from the Pub. During sex, Maud has a graphic flashback of performing CPR on a patient and feels repulsed so gets off of the man. The man continues having sex with Maud despite her objections and then makes reference to her past life of promiscuity.
Feeling remorseful and misguided, Maud walks vacantly through the town where she eventually encounters Amanda’s new carer. Seeing that the carer and Amanda enjoy a good relationship, Maud becomes angry and returns home.
A Grizzly End
During the night, Maud is awoken by the voice of God. He tells Maud that she will be given a sign and a way to prove her faith. Maud, dressed in makeshift robes, breaks into Amanda’s house after her carer has left and wakes her up. Amanda, seemingly, apologetic for making a fool out of Maud and mocking her religion, is reminded by Maud of the time they both experienced God. Amanda denies that she actually felt God at all and claims she faked it. Maud is horrified by the revelation and Amanda suddenly turns into a demon. Maud murders Amanda believing she has to vanquish the demon and this must be her mission from God.
The next day, Maud walks to the beach, douses herself in acetone and self immolates. Maud appears to grow angelic wings and floats towards the sky before it is revealed she is actually falling to the ground and screaming in agony.
So What Happened?
So we have a few themes at play in Saint Maud but the overriding theme is the religious views of Maud herself. Maud self harms to appease her God, attempts to live a righteous and pious life, feels God to an almost orgasmic level, and even hears the voice of God talking to her directly.
Taking all of the events together in context, I believe it becomes very apparent that Maud is suffering from Schizophrenia. I am pretty well informed on mental health subjects and, being a sufferer of Bipolar Disorder, I feel I have a decent understanding of this subject so I will elaborate. I will get a little wordy here so apologies in advance but I find this element of Saint Maud fascinating.
A Little Background
Schizophrenia is an often misunderstood mental health condition characterised by an altered perception of reality. People with Schizophrenia experience the condition in two phases that have different symptom profiles; one set of symptoms is defined by the presence of psychosis, the other set are defined by the lack of psychosis related symptoms.
The initial phase of schizophrenia is characterized by what are known as negative symptoms, negative here meaning there are no active symptoms of psychosis. Negative symptoms include insomnia, depression, lethargy, withdrawal from society and interpersonal social groups, apathy and increased anxiety.
This negative phase, if untreated, leads to a more dangerous phase where a sufferer is afflicted with what is known as positive symptoms. Positive here doesn’t mean good, it means that the symptoms of psychosis are active and present rather than laying dormant as they do during the negative phase. These symptoms include hallucinations both visual and auditory, disordered thinking, disordered speech, paranoia, sleep disturbance, impulsive behaviours and a whole bunch of secondary symptoms that generally make life a bit shit and a fair bit more difficult than it is for your average person.
When most people think of Schizophrenia they are thinking of the positive phase of the illness where sufferers are living in a somewhat permanent state of psychosis. Schizophrenia, however, is defined by the presence of phases of negative symptoms as well and without these phases, a diagnosis of Schizophrenia would not be accurate. In this case, a diagnosis of Psychosis Disorder would be more accurate. I am going from memory here so hopefully I am remembering correctly.
Psychosis is a disconnection from reality that can manifest in a number of different ways. With bipolar disorder it can result in believing you are well when you are not, believing you are invincible, thinking people are conspiring against you and a whole range of other similar things. With schizophrenia it tends to include all of the symptoms that bipolar sufferers experience as well as auditory and visual hallucinations, extreme paranoia (in some cases), disordered thinking, disordered speech patterns, a confused world view, and, most importantly with regards to Saint Maud, delusions.
Delusions come in many forms and this would be an article in itself just to go through some of them so I won’t. The one we want to focus on for Saint Maud is religious delusions. Religious delusions are one of the most common forms of delusions experienced by schizophrenic people. Remember, religious iconography is everywhere and most of us are fed a ridiculous amount of religious literature growing up. We are all constantly reminded that we will go to hell if we are bad people and, if we are bad people, our souls are easily forfeit.
When a person is suffering from psychosis, it is no surprise that these early lessons and, for lack of a better word, threats can come back to the forefront of our minds and manifest into something more. Is it any surprise that schizophrenic people can hear the voice of God? We have already had it implanted into our brains from a young age that God is omnipotent and watching you. This is a consistent theme throughout the world and throughout religions when it comes to schizophrenia.
Maud is Schizophrenic
So I believe Maud is schizophrenic. Schizophrenia is something that comes on during your late teens to early 30s. The general consensus seems to be that you are born with these serious mental health disorders (bipolar, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder) and they basically lay dormant until a certain point in your life. Schizophrenia, like Bipolar Disorder, can be triggered earlier by a stressful event. I believe Maud’s schizophrenia was brought on by the trauma of losing the patient that she was performing CPR on in the flashbacks.
It is at this point that Maud removes herself from work and from her social group, suffers from depression and becomes withdrawn from society. These would be the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. It is fair to assume she would not have recognised these symptoms and, due to withdrawing from society and her social group, nobody around her would have recognised them either. This means Maud would not have undergone treatment and would have progressed to the positive symptoms and began suffering from delusions and hallucinations.
Due to these delusions, Maud believes God is touching her and instructing her on what to do with her life. She begins self harming as a form of self flagellation to appease God and she sees signs from God in everyday mundane things. Remember the vortex in the clouds? These are all very common in sufferers of Schizophrenia that experience religious delusions.
There are a few things in Saint Maud that make this explanation pretty obvious. Maud is Welsh, as am I. When God is talking to Maud it is immediately apparent to anyone who is Welsh that God is speaking to her in Welsh. A few people in reviews seemed to miss this point entirely and referred to it as religious language or as a demonic language; a statement which really made me laugh. God is speaking to Maud in Welsh because it is not God, it is Maud herself suffering an auditory hallucination in her native language. This point is further hit home by the fact that the person speaking is actually the actor who plays Maud (Morfydd Clark) herself, just slowed down a whole lot. A really nice touch.
Amanda obviously did not turn into a demon. Maud, in her deluded, paranoid state, believed she did and killed her as a result but, in truth, Amanda was herself though perhaps a little angry at Maud for breaking in. This is further alluded to by Amanda’s dead body being that of herself and not of the demon.
Unfortunately this is something that does happen with sufferers of Paranoid Schizophrenia. People have been murdered due to sufferers believing the victim to be a demon or believing they have been instructed by God to kill the victim. It is a tragic reality of an extremely serious mental health condition that too often goes unrecognised, underdiagnosed and untreated.
Maud’s Self Immolation
Again, Maud’s deluded manner of thinking caused by her Schizophrenia leads her to believe that God wants her to ascend and the way to do that is to set herself on fire. Self immolation is a common theme in religion and is a practice that still occurs today. Maud believes this is the way she will ascend to heaven as an angel after completing her mission from God of killing the demon Amanda.
The reality, as portrayed by the harrowing screaming and the reaction of the people around her, is much more visceral and terrifying. She suffers in agony as she slowly succumbs to her burns surrounded by people who, as they have for the entire film, are oblivious to her condition. It’s a fitting metaphor for the plight of sufferers of serious mental health conditions. Schizophrenia has a suicide rate many times that of the average and that doesn’t account for death by misadventure caused by the illness itself.
Not a Metaphor
I normally complain about movies that are overly metaphorical but I think Saint Maud does a fantastic job of blending actual psychological horror with real world mental health issues.
Saint Maud is not really metaphorical; the world is presented from the viewpoint of Maud as a sufferer of Schizophrenia. We see things from her point of view and from her deluded perspective. Remember, psychosis means that you genuinely believe the things you believe, they are real to you, however ridiculous and however terrifying.
It is only at the end that we see the reality of the situation, Maud is seriously ill, tragically murders a person and commits suicide in one of the most agonising ways. This is not a metaphor, this is reality for a sufferer of a psychotic disorder. Maud is schizophrenic and the condition manifests in the most serious manner possible.
And That is That
Thank you very much for reading what is a hugely lengthy article. I know I have waffled on a lot here but I really enjoyed Saint Maud and have a deep interest and connection to mental health issues so I guess I got a little carried away.
Keep checking back on Knockout Horror for more reviews and more overly long Horror Movie Ending Explained articles.