Netflix Gets Praise with ‘Midnight Mass’

Tis the season! October brings about more than just a slew of purple and orange decorations or the numerous Spirit Halloweens that temporarily occupy vacated buildings. It’s also that time of year when horror films hit the big screen and mini-series fill our televisions. Such has been the case on Netflix, especially since 2018 when The Haunting of Hill House made its debut. For this unfamiliar, the ten-episode series was the first of now three ‘season’ production. Similar to American Horror Story, each season is disconnected from the previous in story, though you’ll find a lot of the same actors recast in new roles. Two of those thespians that have appeared in all three shows include Henry Thomas (E.T.) and Kate Siegel (Hush).

Truth be told, The Haunting of Hill House was some of the best horror I have ever experienced. The ending left a question or two, but all in all was a tremendously creative effort that excelled at all levels. The follow-up series, The Haunting of Bly Manor, left a lot to be desired. At nine episodes, it felt much longer as the story plodded along like a lumbering beast. The scares were few and far between and annoyances speckled each episode.

On September 24, 2021, the third production in the series, Midnight Mass, made its debut on Netflix. At seven episodes, I wondered if this would be too condensed of a show, thus confining the storytelling and restricting full creativity. As it turns out, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Midnight Mass takes place on a remote New England island. The little town has its regular inhabitants and you instantly get a feel that people who are born there die there and visitors just aren’t a thing. To further set the stage while avoiding spoilers, the town’s priest, an elderly man, has taken a leave of absence from his duties due to illness. It’s important to note this is a very Catholic settlement with a Muslim sheriff. Needless to say, that religious contrast tends to cause strain on at least one relationship, but that’s another story.  Ultimately, religion tends to become a very up front and center pillar of the show.  That’s not to say it is selling something of the like to viewers.  Instead, it projects faith in a way to show how it garners followers and how it can so easily be misinterpreted or even used maliciously.

Enter Father Paul who enters town to replace the highly respected Monsignor Pruitt. It is worthy to note and sidestep here for a moment on the acting of this character. Each actor cast did a great job in the portrayal of their character. However, Hamish Linklater, who plays Father Paul, was nothing short of award-worthy in his delivery. Heck, I want to join his church after listening to him speak. This man is so convincing that it’s no wonder that town soon begins to look up to him. Soon after the priest’s arrival, however, darkness seems to have made a new home.

Animals begin dying, people begin disappearing and it’s all under the nose of the seemingly content townsfolk.  Ignorance is bliss, right?  The tale that ensues is one so chillingly and matter-of-factly told that it becomes a mini-series that is arguably better than its Hill House predecessor…and that is saying a lot.  Writer/Director Mike Flanagan (also Kate Siegel’s husband) has truly found a niche in this genre, especially when you consider the difference in horror that The Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass bring to the table.  The former focuses on, as you can imagine from the title, a haunted house and the apparitions that fill its halls.  The latter offers no ghosts, but more gore, though not in the sense of a slasher film.  Both are examples of providing spooks and gasps through expert timing and intelligent storytelling.

Even after October 31st comes and goes and that holiday vibe switches from Halloween to Thanksgiving, it’s no reason to let these shows escape your viewing grasp.  If you do, who knows, maybe you might have Father Paul knocking on your door come Sunday.


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