Mike Flanagan, the creator of Haunting, has created a unique brand of horror. Hill House and Bly Manor are slow, methodical stories that blend family drama with ghostly scares. They are focused because of their small scope. Even though it feels like it, Flanagans' latest book, Midnight Mass is not part of the anthology. It shares the same patient build-up and intense focus on family dynamics. Midnight Mass increases the danger and scope. It is not about a single family home. Instead, it covers a small fishing community. And instead of ghosts, it's more about monsters. Although it takes some time to get started, the horror descends into pure and horrific terror by the end.
Midnight Mass is held on Crockett Island (also known as Crock Pot), an island isolated with just over 100 residents. Two important facts are worth knowing about the island. Its decline has been steady since an oil spill destroyed the local fishing industry. It is a very religious area, with St. Patricks Church being the main hub of activity. The show's main drama centers on an aging priest who traveled on a pilgrimage to the island and returned from a sick condition. He is currently resting in a hospital located on the mainland. To temporarily replace him, a young Father Paul (Hamish Linkslater) appears. Paul revitalizes the island community and transforms the church into a bustling, vibrant place.
Strange things begin to happen around the time he arrives. One day, hundreds of dead cats end up washed up on a beach. A resident later claims that he saw an old priest walking in the middle of a storm. Stranger still, miracles occur when elderly residents regain their youth and a young girl walks to receive communion. These seemingly unrelated developments all connect to the show's big twist. It happens about halfway through.
Midnight Mass, like many small-town mysteries, is an ensemble. Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford) is a former altar boy who fled the island only to return to it after being imprisoned for a fatal DUI. This haunts him. Erin Greene, his childhood friend, is also back on Crockett, having spent a lifetime away. She's now pregnant and lives in her mother's house while still working at the school. The town sheriff Hassan (Rahulkohli), who was a former NYPD officer, is the most prominent non-Christian on Crockett; Bev (Samantha Sloyan), who runs the church and guilts people to attend; Sarah (Annabeth Sloyan), who is trying to explain the events to her patients; Riley's parents (Henry Thomas & Kristin Lehman), who are trying to keep their heads together while they care for their adult son.
Although there is a lot to remember, you will get to know the characters over the seven episodes. Because if there's one thing Crockett residents love more than anything it's talking. Midnight Mass runs for a large portion of the time dedicated to dialogue. The new priest will deliver long sermons, AA meetings are intense and revelatory, and there will be many childhood stories. Everybody seems to start their thoughts with some monologue. It's almost like a collection of stories nestled together. Although it can sometimes feel overwhelming, the performances are all excellent. Although I was eager to see the next scene, I could not help but be drawn into lengthy, drawn-out speeches on death and the meanings of life. These moments help to set the tone. The show's quiet, thoughtful nature makes it difficult to see the darker moments.
There are also some very dark moments. Midnight Mass is very similar to the Haunting series in its first few episodes. There are no bloody kills or jump scares. This is the horror you can only watch with your fingers, anticipating that something horrible will happen. The show eventually gets violent and bloody. There are a few deaths, some shocking revelations here and there, but the show descends into horror by Midnight Mass. Like, were-on-the-run-because-were-all-gonna-die kind of horror. Gruesome-killfest-that-will-keep-you-up-at-night kind of horror. It's all the more terrifying because the show gradually ramps up and how closely you feel to the main characters.
Midnight Mass's most striking feature is its ability to balance the more contemplative elements from the Haunting Series serious reflections on grief, guilt, family and faith with traditional horror elements. Flanagans' past success doesn't disappear. It twists it into something bigger, more frightening, and unsettling.