The arrival of a charismatic young priest brings glorious miracles, ominous mysteries and renewed religious fervor to a dying town desperate to believe.
Director: Mike Flanagan
Starring: Kate Siegel, Zach Gilford, Hamish Linklater, Henry Thomas, Kristin Lehman, Samantha Sloyan, Igby Rigney, Rahul Kohli, Annarah Cymone, Annabeth Gish, Alex Essoe, Rahul Abburi, Matt Biedel, Michael Trucco, Crystal Balint, Louis Oliver
Information Page: https://www.newonnetflix.info/info/81083626
“Midnight Mass” has been in the private pipeline of director Mike Flanagan for over a decade. To think this story almost never came to fruition on the screen is scary in itself. Turned down repeatedly as a film even by Netflix, the story has finally been developed as a 7-episode limited series for the streaming giant. Flanagan never doubted the narrative though, the concept had originally been intended for release as a book, followed by a screen adaptation. So confident was he of its production that he placed easter eggs about it in his previous productions; a direct nod in Hush as Kate Siegel’s writer character is typing up her book ‘Midnight Mass’ with actual copy from Flanagan’s abandoned book on her computer screen and in Gerald’s Game a hard copy of a book ‘Midnight Mass’ is grabbed from above the bed. The visual similarity between Gerald’s Game’s ‘Moonlight Man’ and the ‘Angel’ of Midnight Mass needs no explanation.
So, without any spoilers, let’s attempt to analyse this series. Personally, I would have preferred a movie. Seven episodes was too long and some episodes were incredibly dialogue based which found me almost losing the will to live at times. That said, the narrative is so engaging that it is bearable and scenes that are heavy with dialogue were seemingly less important to the overall narrative as they were addressing some of life’s biggest challenges. That’s really the only negative to be found in the series so if you find yourself struggling with those scenes – stick with it.
The story begins with Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford), the opening scenes are of him in the aftermath of an accident and we soon learn he has faced consequences to his past actions, some of which he is still dealing with. We see Riley return to his home town – a small isolated ‘Crockett Island.’ As he reconnects with his family and his childhood sweetheart Erin (Kate Siegel) a parallel narrative is unravelling with the arrival of a new priest of the Island’s only church, St Patrick’s.
The series addresses how we process grief and loss, our actions and the consequences but the main focus of the show is a real emphasis on Christian faith particularly, Catholicism and the potential control the church has to direct the free will of it’s congregation. Some would obviously argue the blasphemy of a horror genre that addresses common church issues but ironically, I came away with lots of questions, not about faith in God but in what we as humans do with our free will and whether it can be used to control us, ironically.
It’s unfortunate that the story doesn’t address the forgiveness and cleansing that the Christian church believes in with the rapture. I expect that comes from Flanagan’s own atheism or perhaps it was just too predictable. His childhood experience as a catholic altar boy obviously gave him a great standing for the knowledge of the church politics that are so imperative to the realism of this Catholic-Horror narrative.
Samantha Sloyan plays the part of the pious church verger Bev Keane. Adapting to the new priest and what he brings to the island with enthusiasm, she is the first and most strongly convinced of the miraculous time the priest declares they are living in and considers it a revival. Sloyer’s portrayal of someone who has misunderstood the church and uses it as a force for control is mesmerising. When we see her character’s true human nature seep through it is comforting to know she has consequences to fear too.
I couldn’t review this Netflix limited series without at least mentioning another character, The Sheriff – Omar Hassan (Rahul Kohli) and the wonderful way Flanagan addresses his character’s backstory and reason for being on the island. This dialogue scene, whilst lengthy, tackles issues of racism and belonging in a narrative that it wouldn’t ordinarily be expected in. The intricate weaving of the small-knit community is wonderfully expressed and this review unfortunately, does not allow for an analysis of all of the characters but they are all worthy of praise.
For all the serious conversations and scenes that address important topics including racism, ableism, consequence and forgiveness, there is enough action to keep the series suspenseful with unexpected twists. The biblical verses and hymnal soundtrack are recognisable and relatable to those with a Christian faith and are enigmatically used for light and good by some characters whilst weaponised for darkness by others not unlike in reality. The story continues, flitting between good and evil as the reason for what is happening to the island and its inhabitants with a final line that encompases how bad can be good and good can be bad.
Midnight Mass is a must watch if only to induce a questioning of humanity that Mike Flanagan encourages in this story that has waited a long time to surface.
Have you seen this series? Let us know your opinions in the comments below and of course if there are any films on Netflix UK you want us to review let us know!