My History with the Series:
There is no doubt in my mind, when I think of the best horror director working right now, Mike Flanagan is at the top of the list. While not everyone of his movies/series is a home run, he consistently creates slow, brooding, stories that offer more than just your typical jumpscares. He infuses trauma (generational, mental, violent, spiritual) into these stories which makes them so much more appealing than most horror offerings. There’s a certain elegant and class with his work and I’m a huge fan.
With that being said, I loved The Haunting of Hill House but I was less impressed with The Haunting of Bly Manor. So, when Midnight Mass rolled around, committing another eight hours to a single story just seemed a bit excessive. I’m not a huge fan of stories being extended for the sake of being extended and I feel like a lot of current series are that way. So, I ignored Midnight Mass, knowing that one day I’d get around to watching it.
Then, in July 2022, I discovered the television show Evil. Well, I should more accurately say, I began watching more than the first two episodes of Evil. The show does an amazing job at interweaving religion into a palatable story and that made me think of Midnight Mass. I believe the religious nature of the show turned me off in the trailers, but as my views on religion have softened over the past year, I found myself drawn to watching it. So, I sat down and over the course of a few days, I completed yet another brilliant Mike Flanagan production.
What the Series is About (Non-Spoiler):
A depressed, island begins experiencing miracles that may or may not be the work of God.
What I Liked About It:
-One of my favorite things about Stephen King stories is the way he can create a familiar setting even when it completely foreign to me. Mike Flanagan channels that talent of King with Crockett Island. I cannot relate to this island in anyway, but I feel like I’ve been there. I want to live there. I love it. It feels so real and yet so foreign.
-I also enjoyed how the time period seems to exist sometime between the 90’s and now. There is very little to date when the show takes place, but the houses are full of old televisions and even an original Nintendo. You do see a smart phone, but they aren’t overly used, and everyone isn’t on them texting. Reilly’s room features a Scully poster from The X-Files and he’s now grown, so you’d assume it takes place in the present, but it seems to exist in sort of a parallel dimension and once again, I’m reminded of Stephen King’s work.
-The cinematography is stunning. I mean, this is by far his best-looking work and The Haunting of Hill House and Doctor Sleep were beautifully shot. There is something about the lighting, the depressive setting, and the use of lights on the eyes that really make this show just beautiful to look yet, despite how despairing it is. I was also happy with an improved use of CGI in this series vs. The Haunting of Bly Manor.
-Before I watched this, I heard online some murmurs about the long segments of dialogue, and they weren’t wrong. This show consists of many long, uncut scenes of dialogue. Luckily for the viewer, it’s all incredibly well performed and written. Never once did I find myself bored and if anything, I’d find myself amazed that an actor/actress could perform so much dialogue.
-The story is thoughtful, and you can see Flanagan both exercising his own mourning of his loss of religion along with his own battles with addictions through the characters.
-The casting is spot on as usual, Hamish Linklater (Father Hill), Kate Siegel (Erin), and Samantha Sloyan (Bev Keane) are the true stars of the production. Kate Siegel has been in many of Mike Flanagan’s past productions and really shines in this one. There is something about her eyes and smile that makes her so warm, yet so haunted.
-The church scenes are phenomenal. They make me miss out on something I never even experienced before. There is something so comforting and consistent within them that honors the Catholic faith. It’s quite rare to find a form of entertainment that respects religion the way Midnight Mass does. Both Islam and Christianity are front and center and are not treated as quick fixes or something to blame.
-The story wraps up incredibly nice, which I wasn’t quite so sure was going to work. The different levels of critique on substance abuse, religion, society, and arrogance will stay with you long after the credits roll.
What I Didn’t Like:
-I’m always a fan of less is more when it comes to series. While I never felt like this story dragged, I would have been just as happy with one less episode.
-Kate Siegel (Erin) is married to Mike Flanagan.
-Midnight Mass has shown up in other Mike Flanagan works: in Gerald’s Game, Jessie throws the book Midnight Mass at the dog, and the book that Maggie is writing in Hush is Midnight Mass.
-You can see Christopher Pike and Stephen King books in Riley’s room. You can also see posters for Scream, The X-Files, and Se7en.
-The Lasser Glass from Oculus shows up in many of Mike Flanagan’s movies. It can be found in episode two on the rec center stage.
I enjoyed Midnight Mass way more than I was expecting. I think due to the length and the slowness of The Haunting of Bly Manor, I was almost dreading Midnight Mass. Thankfully, the show worked for me on all levels, and it managed to tell a fascinating story surrounded by darkness.
The ending delivered and this is piece of art that is not only beautiful to look at it, it also tells an interesting story, and offers some critiques and observations about life, death, religion, mistakes, arrogance, and love. It’s a thinking man’s piece of horror and my only regret is not watching it sooner.
I highly recommend Midnight Mass and rate it a five out of five.