Do Not Read This ‘Midnight Mass’ Article
What did I just say?
In any case, before the spoilers begin, let me say unequivocally, that I highly recommend Midnight Mass to not just horror-lovers, but more or less anyone, given that it’s a great series that transcends the genre, just like Mike Flanagan’s last two “Hauntings” that he did for Netflix.
Midnight Mass has been a long-term passion project of Flanagan, and he earned enough clout to finally get it done. It may in fact be his best work yet, and that’s saying something, given what he’s already made so far.
The point I’m trying to make with my headline here is that it’s best not to know anything about Midnight Mass going in. You can watch the (autoplaying) trailer if you want, because it does a surprisingly good job restraining itself and not giving key plot points away, namely the key plot point that you will eventually learn. The trailer sets up the idea that something is wrong in this sleepy island town and something weird is going on with this priest, but that’s really about it. And knowing that is enough.
So, go watch it, and stop reading. But if you’ve seen it and want to talk about it? That’s what the rest of this article is for.
Ready? Spoilers follow.
The “turn” I am referencing in Midnight Mass is when you realize this isn’t a ghost story or a tale about a serial killing priest. Rather, this is Flanagan’s take on the vampire genre in a way entirely unique to anything we’ve seen before.
Hiding the source of the “miracles” until midway through the show was stellar, understanding that Pruitt has been made young again by what he believes is an angel, but is very, very clearly an ancient vampire buried in an Israeli tomb. No one says the word “vampire” in this show, but that’s what we’re doing here, serving vampire blood in communion to heal the sick and de-age the old.
It is…kind of eerie how well Flanagan makes the idea of the vampires, its blood and the powers it gives work within the constraints of Christianity and Catholicism. I don’t actually know if Flanagan is anti-religious, but Midnight Mass can be read as a pretty sharp commentary on organized religion, Christianity in particular, as the priest is given extraordinary power by the vampire which he then uses to try and build an “army of the lord” which is…an army of vampires, and could at least in theory, bring a very bloody end to the entire world, if it was allowed to spread off the island. The parallels to consuming the literal blood of Christ (a genuine belief called transubstantiation in many sects) to being granted Bible-promised eternal life to understanding you would fear an angel when you first saw one, as happens many times in scripture, is a brilliant use of the actual Bible to draw out the vampiric parallels in a way I would never have thought would work. But it absolutely does.
It also helps that at its core, like both Hauntings before it, this is also a character drama. We are treated to many of Flanagan’s traditional monologues about life, death, even racism, and while they may occasionally be a bit overwrought, they work well, and are showcases for each of the actors delivering them.
Special honors go to Zack Gilford’s Riley Flynn, a former alcoholic turned into one of the first vampires against his will, but being able to resist his newly murderous urges better than the rest of them. And of course this is an exceptional stage for the misguided priest himself, Hamish Linklater, who has been a “that guy” in a million projects from Legion to Fargo to The Newsroom, but here he finally has a chance to shine brighter than he ever has before.
It’s getting hard to find fresh takes on many traditional monster genres these days, from zombies to vampires, but Midnight Mass is a rare exception, an entirely original use of the concept without even needing to utter the “V-word” once. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, and as ever, I will be eagerly awaiting whatever Flanagan does next.
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Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series, and The Earthborn Trilogy, which is also on audiobook.