Wow .. what a way to kick start the unholy month of Halloween with Mike Flanagan’s latest horror offering, Midnight Mass, his new Netflix hit horror limited series. Mike Flanagan is no stranger to the genre having done both The Haunting of Hill House in 2018 and The Haunting of Bly Manor in 2020 for Netflix as well a taking on the director role for Doctor Sleep.
With Midnight Mass, Mike Flanagan has created what I would consider his best work to date as director, executive producer and writer. He has crafting an original tale that is so multi-layered with complex human and social themes cleverly interwoven with an underlying tale of horror. He starts off the series deliberately at a slow pace, taking his time to introduce his characters and allowing them to grow on us as we progress. There is hardly any hints of the macabre in the first two episodes. As things progress more is revealed cumulating in a no hold bar finale at a level that horror fans have not seen for a long time. Mike manages to capture his vision so vividly and creatively for so many instances where so many other horror film makers have failed. There are no cheap scares or childish humour to soften the mood. He is also a master of monologues, and yes, there are many monologues spread across the seven hour long episodes. It is often through these beautifully written monologues and literally sermons that such heavy themes as religion, terrorism, faith, and death are so compellingly conferred. This is of course not necessarily a good thing for some people who have been programmed to have short attention span and prefers to have things handed over in a silver plate. For me, this is can be great when it is well written and does not come across as preachy or forced.
The amazingly insightful and emotional script is matched with equally powerful performances from the entire cast. If I have to single out the best, I would single out three members of the cast who left their mark. Hamish Linklater was clearly the most outstanding in his portrayal of the charismatic priest Father Paul who arrives to lead the Catholic church in a small isolated island community. Surely his performance deserves all the accolades and awards in the industry! Zach Gilford as a guilt consumed DUI offender struggling to make sense of life while distancing himself from his Catholic upbringing. His performance may not be as loud and garish as Father Paul, but his quiet demeanour often spoke volumes in some of the quieter but impactful scenes. Finally there is Samantha Sloyan as the Bible quoting and fanatical church helper whose world resolves around her interpretation of the teachings from the Bible. There are many more colourful characters who make up the community each providing thought provoking presence within the context of the story. Midnight Mass often reminds me of what Stephen King’s earlier novels used to be, with its theme and mood. It is in fact more superior in many ways!
By the time the bloody and horrific finale arrives, we are left helpless to watch the repercussions. Strangely I found the ending more emotionally draining than horrific. Midnight Mass is a masterly crafted production that is superior in every department. The story is original and engrossing, the script is intellectual and real, the acting is top class, the sound and music is effective, and Mike Flanagan’s directorial style is visionary. Midnight Mass once again shows that TV programmes can often exceed the standards of cinema releases and further proof that TV shows can often be superior to the movies. I am looking forward to what Mike will do next, He has set the bar so high, he has made himself a tough act to follow.