Midnight Mass – A Perfect Horror Series
Midnight Mass is the third Mike Flanagan directed single season, episodic horror story for Netflix. The previous two included The Haunting of Bly Manor, and the amazing, The Haunting of Hill House. Midnight Mass departs from the ghost story themes of the first stories to delve into a more physical horror. Some will argue; however, I feel that this is his best story to date.
There may be some minor spoilers, but my goal is to whet your appetite to see this masterpiece if you have yet to.
The story is set on Crockett Island which is a small fishing of the coast of New York. What used to be a thriving village has fallen on hard times after an oil spill, three years previous, negatively impacted the fish populations. Now, many families have left the island hoping for a better life, while a small group of diehards refuse to give up. These families are salt of the earth type people, bound by love of community and their faith as expressed in the island sole church, St. Patrick’s.
The story revolves around the arrival of a new pastor, Father Paul Hill, played by Hamish Linklater, who is standing in for their normal clergyman, Monsignor John Pruitt, who had an accident on his way back from a trip to the Holy Lands.
The charismatic priest brings the promise of a brighter future to the weary townsfolk, he demonstrates this promise by a series of miracles that occur to the members of the church. While the miracles at first appear to be the work of God, it quickly becomes clear that something more sinister is at work.
The plot juxtaposes Christian faith and tradition against a horror backdrop but serves both equally well. The villagers and their faith are treated with sincerity and authenticity with the only exception being Bev Keane, played by Samantha Sloyan, who is acts as the trope of the hypocritic zealot. The horror is real, and visceral impacting the lives of everyone on the island.
The story is very thought provoking and I have thought about it for some time. At its heart is how evil can disguise itself as righteousness and how that evil can corrupt the good. This is demonstrated by the unintentional mocking of the sacraments and holy days by the church members without their realizing it until it is too late.
Christianity is not the only belief system this show focuses on. Islam, atheism, and nihilism are also respectfully examined. The show asks difficult questions, however, it doesn’t patronize the audience with pat answers. This show will philosophically challenge people of faith and people without faith to better understand what they believe and not just blindly follow.
I’ve spent most of this review discussing the philosophical components of this show without mentioning the horror. Make no mistake, this is a horror movie, but as with Flanagan’s other projects, this can’t be pigeonholed to just a genre film, or just a drama. It’s the perfect blend of what it means to be human while confronting unimaginable evil.