I have only watched the first three episodes of the new Netflix limited series from modern day horror savant, Mike Flanagan — “Midnight Mass” — and will save my full deciding review of it for next week.
Right off the bat, though, viewers of the new series will catch glimpses of what Flanagan has successfully done before in his past works (The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Doctor Sleep), including but not limited to his masterful way of developing layered and tortured characters. This talent renders the lack of outer horror in the first three episodes nil, as the inner torment is immediately felt by many of our main characters, adding to the overall doom and gloom the series offers its viewers.
“Mass” is an original creation by Flanagan, telling the story of a young, mysterious priest arriving on a secluded island town at the very moment a troubled young man returns back home to the island. As strange glimpses in the darkness become apparent, the priest (played wonderfully by Hamish Linklater (The Big Short) begins to display an ability to deliver miracles to the residents of the island town, but not without cost. The prodigal son however (played by Zack Gilford, Friday Night Lights) returns home after a four-year prison sentence for a drunk driving incident which resulted in the death of a young woman — who still haunts him in his inability to sleep — having lost his faith, and all at once objectively and subjectively begins to question the mysteries occurring on the island he once called home.
Flanagan brings along several regulars from his past works, including Anabeth Gish and Robert Longstreet, who played the Dudleys in “The Haunting of Hill House”, as well as Flanagan’s wife, actress Kate Siegel. While delivering familiar faces in a slow burning familiar tone, “Midnight Mass” can sometimes feel like a retread, but somehow wholly new, all the same.
The difference with “Mass” is Flanagan exploring horror that hides in blind faith; in religion, and even the lack thereof.
Religion is not just the message or theme of the series, it is also the very foundation that looms over every frame of each episode. There is something frightening in the unknown, and even if you believe — you still can’t see the truth of what faith provides. It’s not tangible, it’s not solid. It just is, at least according to Flanagan.
The show is not without its flaws. Much like “The Haunting of Bly Manor” before it, “Midnight Mass” relies almost exclusively on dialogue to deliver major plot points, and on the soundtrack, albeit very effectively, to deliver the limited scares that are planted sparsely throughout the first three episodes. But if the viewer gives the show a chance, the slow burn is worth the wait, and even without reaching the finality of the limited series yet, I can tell the delivery is worth the faith I’m allowing myself to give it.
All episodes of “Midnight Mass” are now available for streaming on Netflix.