Religion, science and the human condition all collide in this supremely atmospheric, slow burn show created and directed by Mike Flanagan. Well known for his work in the horror genre, Flanagan has previously terrified audiences with The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, the first two instalments in Netflix anthology series The Haunting.
Taking place on an isolated island where a small community finds themselves intrigued by the arrival of a mysterious new priest, Midnight Mass is a show that never rushes itself. Instead it slowly and adeptly constructs layer upon layer of intrigue and suspense, with gorgeous cinematography, meaningful imagery and stunning performances.
The characters in Midnight Mass are richly drawn and complex. The islanders have certain expectations of the type of people that they will allow into their community and the type of behaviour that will be tolerated, however each hides secrets of their own. This is character led work and the performances had to be spot on. There can be no complaints on that front however, as the ensemble cast here is fantastic.
Flanagan’s writing also allows for notable performances. Often the characters help the narrative along with extended monologues. Lengthy monologues are often discouraged in screenwriting, so in that way Midnight Mass is superbly written and written with conviction.
Flanagan has certainly provided audiences with a thematic bounty of show. Midnight Mass is many things, but it is certainly not an easy watch. This is not a show that you can watch whilst also scrolling aimlessly on your phone. Midnight Mass demands audiences’ attention and challenges them with a number of philosophical, religious and scientific issues. It mediates on faith, love, grief and death, and will have you questioning everything you thought you knew. For some that may sound like a show that alienates you rather than engages you, but that could not be further from the truth. Midnight Mass beckons its audience in and once in its grasp, there is no escaping.
Let us not forget though that Midnight Mass is first and foremost a horror show and when the horror hits, boy does it hit. It hits with blood and gore, and the sort of terror that creeps up the back of your neck. Cleverly, the horror does not just lie in the obvious. Midnight Mass demonstrates that horror can be found in the outright and the hidden, and that those capable of the most heinous and evil acts may not necessarily be the monsters that lurk in the dark.
Midnight Mass’ thematically rich and slow burn approach may divide some audiences but is undoubtedly Flanagan’s best television work to date. Midnight Mass greatly rewards audiences who stay with it right up until its shocking and disturbing conclusion.
Horror, Fantasy, Mystery | USA 2021 | Limited Series | Netflix | Dir.Mike Flanagan | Kate Siegel, Zach Gilford, Kristin Lehman, Igby Rigney, Rahul Kohli, Samantha Sloyan, Alex Essoe, Robert Longstreet