Updated: Oct 10, 2021
Scary season preparations find fodder with the new Netflix mini-series Midnight Mass. Coming from writer-director Mike Flanagan, the show effectively blends familiar elements explored in The Exorcist and various works by Stephen King. The King connection makes sense coming from Flannigan, who first gained recognition by turning one of the author’s most non-visual works called Gerald’s Game into a compelling movie. Next mining literary classics from Henry James and Shirley Jackson for two series featuring haunted houses, Flanagan uses some of his own background and interests to create the Midnight Mass story.
Seven episodes provide plenty of time for Flanagan to deal with alcoholism, Catholicism, cultism, and more as residents of an isolated island discover how evil often masks as good. Flanagan’s plot starts one way and goes another with twists that might not fully surprise long time horror buffs. No matter, his story moves forward with intriguing force, allowing well-rounded characters to consider existential questions with more detail than single movie runtimes allow. His actors meet the challenge of holding attention during long monologues as they ponder the nature of faith, death, and resurrection.
Strong roles go to Flanagan favorites Annabeth Gish and Kate Siegel as sympathetic characters faced with believing the unbelievable. Siegel joins Zach Gilford from Friday Night Lights in a duo of monologues delivered to one another with quiet care. Meanwhile, Hamish Linklater brings an effective take to the charismatic priest he plays, avoiding bombastic sermons with an almost stammering style that encourages listening to his thoughts. When talk starts running too long—which happens a few times—Flanagan switches to horror basics, not just a creepy atmosphere, but violent and gory scenes. Though initially best watched without extensive knowledge of the plot, Midnight Mass offers deeper concepts worthy of follow up viewings.