I recently completed watching the latest horror series from director Mike Flanagan, ‘Midnight Mass’, on Netflix and really have mixed emotions about it for many reasons. I loved his last two series, ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ and ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ so was hoping I would feel the same about his latest. In this case, I both liked it and was disappointed with it and will try to explain why.
The story is about a small town on Crocket Island that is sparsely populated and which the majority of residents are members of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. They are waiting on the return of their former beloved priest only to find a young, new priest to show up in his place. The new priest, Father Paul (played by Hamish Linklater, who is excellent in his role), is very mysterious and explains that the town’s beloved Monsignor Pruitt is ill and is on the mainland and probably won’t be able to return for many weeks. At the same time he appears, one of the founding family’s on the island sees the return of their son, Riley (played by Zach Gifford), who has been in prison for four years after being in a drunk driving incident in which he killed a young woman. Lost and not sure what to do with his life, he returns home, haunted every night by the face of the young woman he killed. While on the island, Riley reconnects with a childhood girlfriend, Erin (played by Kate Siegel), who has her own demons she is dealing with.
Without giving away anything, as the community begins to get acquainted with this new priest, strange things begin to happen and Riley catches him in a lie. He has not been as receptive to him anyway as the rest of the town and this lie solidifies his concern. Needless to say this priest is struggling with himself and his ‘hunger’ brought on by his encounter with what is referred to as an angel. People begin to disappear, a doctor sees blood in her test lab just bubble and burn when exposed to the sun, Erin, who was pregnant, ‘miscarries’ but yet a mainland doctor sees no evidence at all that she was even pregnant. During this entire buildup of suspicious goings-on and missing townspeople, Father Paul’s ‘secret’ is revealed to what can only be described as fanatical follower, Bev Keane, played by Samantha Sloyan. In my opinion she is the true scene stealer of the series and does an excellent job as well.
As for what I liked about the series, overall the acting is top notch. In addition to the roles already mentioned above, there are other actors who standout such as Henry Thomas (I am sorry, but I just cannot get over that this is the kid from E.T.), Rahul Kali (who plays the town sheriff), and Annabeth Gish, who plays the town doctor. Also great is the setting/background of the series as well as the blood and gore as after all this is a horror film.
The things I had issues with were the length of some of the scenes, especially when it got rather ‘preachy’ about religion as there were times I felt like it just went overboard. Also, the moments when Linklater’s character was having his ‘spells’ and he mumbled a good bit made it hard to follow. Lastly, I could not decide if the way the combination of the church and horror theme really worked well. Part of me felt like this was less of a horror film and more a statement on the Catholic Church and religion on general. Not saying overall it was not successful but it left me thinking about certain things and maybe that was Flanagan’s point.