Midnight Mass

Midnight Mass ★★★★½

Marvellous miracles and terrifying omens come face to face in Flanagan's recent exploration of religion, faith, guilt, alcoholism and grief.

"Midnight Mass" is the culmination of what creator/director Mike Flanagan has learned over the course of his career. He employs every little trick in his book, creating a miniseries that perfectly balances religious themes, character depth and truly terrifying moments, moments that are made all the more horrific because of the intelligent and thoughtful groundwork of the screenplay.

This show however, isn't about Jump-scares, although there are a handful of well-earned scares. It's ultimately a slow-burn horror about evoking fear from the mysterious nature of religion and the ways in which people abuse the power of "the hand of god". The unknowing of it all, the fact that if you believe in God, you must believe in the devil, if you believe in all the good he can do, you must believe in all the bad, if angels are real, so are demons, and does it make your life easier knowing you can blame god for all your problems/omens/sins and give him credit for all your miracles. However what I appreciate as an atheist/agnostic is the fact that Flanagan never directly insults or assaults religion, nor does he ever make it feel like a preachy sermon used to bash non-believers heads in. Instead, he uses the series to sensitively show how people can twist and manipulate the word of god, forging it into a weapon to slay those who don't believe, and even some who do.

The methodical slow-burn approach is a trait of Flanagan's, allowing audiences to fully sink into the lives of the characters on screen. I personally believe this is why his horror is so devastating, because he lets you sit and stew to soak it all up, so you care about characters and the unfortunate situation they find themselves in before the series fully lets loose. You care about characters that are unlikeable on paper thanks to the raw intimacy between Director, cast and project, and if you hate a character, boy does Flanagan make them well worth hating.

If there were an award for "most monologues in a original TV miniseries," 'Midnight Mass' would win hands down. Every main character gets multiple, some more than others, but all will hit hard and force you to want to entertain learning the ideology behind the preaching. In my eyes, that's a feat in and of itself, to be able to continuously create meticulous dialogue that constantly demands viewers attention, to the point you're just as excited to watch the next monologue as you're about seeing the next scare.

This is also, easily Mike Flanagan's most aesthetically beautiful work to experience. The cinematography is absolutely out of this world, the color palette ranges from natural colours to beautiful blues and oranges, frames with little light set at the dead of night give you anxiety and a claustrophobic feeling, picturesque sunrises light up the sky, haunting landscapes fill the frames, the set designs are incredible, costumes are on point, and the string score is probably my favourite soundtrack of his filmography so far.

Zach Gilford puts in a nuanced performance, one where his character is ruled by grief and guilt, he serves as the vocal point, or shall I say, stand in, for all the non-believing viewers like myself, it's through the lens of his character that I was able to relate and open myself up to the themes explored. Kate Siegel is fantastic, as is the entire cast, but the two best performances belong to Hamish Linklater and Samantha Sloyan. Sloyan a character that will frustrate you to no end, she is the definition of harmful religious fanatics, those that play a big part in the reason why people like myself do not believe. And Linklater is infectiously flamboyant, a priest with pizazz and a cocktail of dark secrets. He's extremely likeable and unlikeable, and whether you like or agree with what he is saying or not, you love to hear him say it! One of the best performances this year in TV, without a doubt.

Only negative thing I have to say comes down to the fact it's a little narratively over-stuffed, so at points it feels like it's tripping over itself and some minor plotholes do emerge from it. All in all, it's a atmospheric, haunting, quiet creeper of a horror, that will leave you thinking about it long after the credits roll. Must, must see!!

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