Often people are surprised when I suggest a horror film or TV series not for the scares or the gores but because it is innovative and thought-provoking. One of the names that is at the forefront of this is Mike Flanagan. Both a film director and TV show runner he has carved out for himself a body of work that ranges from Stephen King adaptions such as Doctor Sleep and the Netflix series Haunting of Hill House. His work is often slow-moving, thickly atmospheric and deeply human. His latest Midnight Mass might be amongst the best things he has done. Find out why in our review.
Riley Flynn (Zach Gilfrod) returns to his small isolated fishing community after spending time in jail for a drunk hit and run. The small community is tight-nit with it’s local industry and religion failing. This seems to turn around when a new priest comes to the small St Patrick’s parish and seems not only to reinvigorate people’s faith but also their small town. However, his arrival appears to trigger numerous strange occurrences which suggest not all is as it seems om this sleepy town.
One of the reasons that Midnight Mass works so well is that it is a show piece for its actor. There is a commitment to the material which veers off into the supernatural. Yet the conviction of its cast is unquestionable. Brilliant performances from the entire cast are punctuated by the exceptional work of Rahul Kohli, Kate Siegel, Zach Gilford, Hamish Linklater and Samantha Sloyan.
The cast are of course given a script and story feel with twisted and surprising reveals but its the existential and theological against the backdrop of horror that allows them to shine. From God, to faith, to fanaticism, from death and the afterlife are all talked thoughtfully here. As you can imagine these are topics that are needed space to breath and be digested, like late night dinner conversations between friends they take time. Midnight Mass gives them such space, with some of the most beautiful and moving contemplative monologues written for TV.
This of course, doesn’t translate into a fast-paced thriller and those who have seen Mike Flanagan’s work will know what I’m taking about. I personally while others struggle with it. Midnight Mass is unlikely to change one’s opinion of his work. It might actually provide more rigid proof for fans and critics alike. It is also equally fair to say that this is not exactly the most original source material either, it’s monsters supernatural and otherwise are familiar. Yet it is the familiar that allows it be so effective and fresh.
There is a lot that could be discussed here that would throw us into the world of spoilers. It’s also not the kind of show that you just sample, it deserves to have its entire 7 episodes watched. But if you want atmospheric, moving, thoughtful and beautifully performed and crafted horror, Midnight Mass is a must watch. It’s easily one of the best things on TV in 2021.
Watch If You Like: Thought Provoking Horror, Atmospheric tension, Great acting.
Avoid If You Don’t Like: Slower pacing, blood and guts.