Midnight Mass is an American supernatural horror streaming television miniseries created and directed by Mike Flanagan. Horror fans would be familiar with Flanagan’s recent work with the Doctor Sleep movie, The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor Netflix series.
S P O I L E R S
The tale of a small, isolated island community whose existing divisions are amplified by the return of a disgraced young man and the arrival of a charismatic priest. When Father Paul’s appearance on Crockett Island coincides with unexplained and seemingly miraculous events, a renewed religious fervor takes hold of the community – but do these miracles come at a price? (IMDB)
Midnight Mass features an ensemble cast of characters with audience attention roughly divided amongst Father Paul (Hamish Linklater), town black sheep Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford) and prodigal daughter Erin Greene (Kate Siegel). But upon deeper analysis, it is clear that the protagonist of the story is Father Paul.
The mysterious priest claims to a temporary replacement for the town’s longtime Monsignor John Pruitt but he is not whom he claims to be. He experiences a supernatural transformation and returns to Crockett Island to save his beloved flock – so to speak – but in fact, brings about them damnation and destruction.
Riley and Erin are both characters seeking redemption but the audience is never really allowed to get into their personalities too much though. The couple come across as doomed figures who fulfil their quest for purpose in horrific manners. So while, no doubt, these characters are meant to engage the audience, the way their story ends leaves a bad feeling all round.
One significant character to note is Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan) – the stereotypical self-righteous Christian who is driven by hate. Throughout the miniseries, Bev spouts scripture at the drop of a hat to justify every toxic act that she commits, in the name of God. No doubt, she fills the role of antagonist perfectly.
For at least two-thirds of Midnight Mass, the strong writing keeps the audience enthralled by its Catholic view of vampire horror tropes. This seems unique and radical as Father Paul and Bev twist the scriptures to justify vampirism as a gift from God. But there’s one distinct flaw.
The vampire – whom Father Paul mistakes for an angel of God – is never explained and in fact does not appear for most of the miniseries. Not only that but there is never any discussion of vampirism whenever the angel is encountered, by anyone. Surely, this would have been brought up by somebody – what, nobody’s ever seen a Dracula movie in this world???
As hinted, the story falls flat in the final two episodes as everything and everyone is literally burned. Also, the demise of the vampire is only suggested at and surely the nominal villain of the entire piece should have been killed onscreen for the audience’s satisfaction? A definite flaw.
Father Paul and Bev in particular are mirror types to Erin and Riley. It is obvious that writer-director Flanagan channels his opinions on the religious zealot and rational person by highlighting the contrast between both couples. Father Paul and Bev represent everything that is evil about religious types and Erin and Riley are of course the opposite. The fact that all four are destroyed at the very end signals a very nihilistic view of life. Which is probably why death is so heavily foreshadowed in the episode where Erin and Riley have a deep discussion about what happens when we die. Mm.
In the final analysis, with Midnight Mass, Flanagan had in his grasp a very intriguing premise but could not stick the landing for the reasons described above. Also, the religious themes were sometimes shoved down the audience’s throat a bit too heavily and in that respect might only resonate with lapsed Catholics. And maybe that was the whole point of Midnight Mass. Still, there is enough here in this miniseries to recommend itself, especially if you are a horror buff.
Now streaming on Netflix.
… still there’s more …