The incredible work that Mike Flanagan has done at Netflix is truly an understatement. Since Hush premiered back in 2016, the creator has featured some fantastic jobs on the platforms. People still discuss how great his other projects like The Haunting of Hill House, Gerald’s Game, and more have turned him into a horror icon. His newest release, Midnight Mass, cements his status as a horror figure that does an outstanding job of understanding the human element in his projects. This miniseries perfectly balances issues like faith, addiction, and morality while delivering some fantastic horror sequences that we’ll talk about for years to come.
Midnight Mass is now streaming on Netflix.
Story: A True Novel
Honestly, any viewer watching this for the first time should avoid any spoilers at all costs. Part of the fun is unraveling all the twists and turns that come with binge-watching. With each episode’s ends, you’ll want to continue with the next episode. Also, knowing about what the twists are on paper loses its impact as some will dismiss it as convoluted. With context, it works beautifully. The show does have a slow burn element to it, but in the best way possible. For the first half of the series, a lot of the focus lay down the story’s foundation, characters, locations, and themes.
It feels more like a novel that was Flanagan’s original intent for Midnight Mass. That feeling works as this show feels like a Stephen King novel unfolding before your eyes. The series starts with Riley, played by Zach Gilford, getting arrested and jailed for drinking and driving that killed a teenage girl. He returns after his sentence to his hometown Crockett Island, a tiny offshore fishing village that’s struggling.
It feels deeply personal because it doesn’t go for the typical cliche of the addict wanting to succumb to their vice but moving on from that trauma. This ties naturally into the show’s discussion of faith, especially regarding Catholicism. Faith isn’t as black or white, but more showing shades of gray. The dangers of having too much faith and have someone with bad intentions can manipulate people.
Characters & Performance: An Ensemble for the Books
With an ensemble like this, it’s surprising how much that every person stands out. By the end of the run, we get a pretty good sense of their journey and arc. Even with some of the minor characters, you can follow their journey and still be satisfied. Hamish Linklater absolutely steals the show as Father Paul. There’s a lot of mystery to him, and the charisma that Linklater possesses makes you want to go down the rabbit hole. He has chemistry with everyone, especially with Zach Gilford during their AA meeting scenes.
This raw energy between them is captivating as they break down the barriers between the two. Some of the series highlights are the discussion they have on morality and the phrase “God has a plan for everything” are some of the series highlights.
Samantha Sloyan is devilishly good as Bev, a very devout and zealous member of St. Patrick’s Church. Bev deserves to be along with characters you love to hate, like Joffery from Game of Thrones. How she puts herself over others by thinking she’s better than others because of her devotion to religion gets underneath your skin—kind of like how someone can be passive-aggressive enough to get their point across without being too hostile. Then as the story progresses, that hate grows, and kudos towards Sloyan on achieving that level.
Another remarkable cast member is Rahul Kohli playing Sheriff Hassan el-Shabazz. He’s the sheriff of the island and Muslim, which puts him at odds with the predominantly Catholic community. He has to face casual racism and suggests attending Sunday mass if he wants to fit in. Kohli delivers on some amazing monologues that express his frustration with how he feels. He brings so much nuanced to this role, and I’m glad he’s now a recurring cast member in Flanagan’s rotation.
Cinematography & Sound: A Beautiful Trance
The sleepy town of Crockett Island feels so lived in and has a ton of atmosphere to it. You can smell the briny air as depression rolls through the land. Crockett Island feels like its own character at times. The progress that we see throughout the series adds to the mystery of Father Paul and the supposed miracles that get happening. The cinematographer, Michael Fimognari, tells this through imagery that’s directly tied to the Bible. Since the show is set around Easter, many metaphors through these images are prominent, like Jesus rising from his cave. Its stunning beauty combined with terror is memorable to behold.
Combine with the music from the Duffer Brothers, and it puts you through a trance. They mainly use two types of music throughout. You get your traditional horror music with striking cello pieces that’ll defitenly startled you. Sometimes it’ll come out of the left field, and it’ll act like its own jump scare sometimes. The other piece of music is biblical hymns that feel like you’re in a trance. They’re beautiful pieces of music performed by the cast, and we even hear the Duffer Brothers covers that are spectacular. It might not seem scary on paper, but they leave you with this unsettling feeling in your stomach.
Editing & Pacing: A Delicious Slow-Burn
As mentioned before, this show follows the slow-burn approach. It carefully set up the events of the story while making you feel for the characters. They do a pretty effective job, as even with most episodes running almost an hour-long, it doesn’t feel like that. An effective method is the extended flashbacks that help fill in the blanks. We’ll find out what a specific character has been doing, and it feels like we’re getting a new chapter of this story. Then it’ll jump back in where we left them, and the added context adds so much depth.
Then when plot points start really heating up, it makes for great tv. Some of these sequences make this one of the best horror shows of all time. The buildup and suspense that leads into it are unsettling, and when things get heated up, your heart will be racing. There were times where I was off my couch and yelling at the tv in reaction to what was going on. By the time Midnight Mass ends, you’ll feel emotionally drained as everything gets taken in.