Directed by Mike Flanagan, Midnight Mass follows the residents of an island away from the mainland struggling with maintaining their lonely society. One day a stranger joins them with promises to make their lives better.
Mike Flanagan is one of my favorite horror directors/writers working in the industry and it’s an absolute joy to watch him bring his projects to life. I loved both The Haunting of Hill House and Bly Manor which were just the right amount of similar yet different. Midnight Mass is something very different in both good ways and bad. In a good way, it’s a much wider theme with a much larger ensemble giving it many perspectives and raising the stakes. But, with that comes a lack of a personal connection and a feeling of feeling detached from the characters. Characters I felt Flanagan wanted me to really connect to.
This is also not nearly as scary as his previous two shows. For the first time, I felt as if what I watched needed more jump-scares rather than fewer. Flanagan is carried away with some themes and creative decisions that repeatedly get in the way of any possible tension. It’s still a decent ‘Flanagan series’ and if you’re a fan of his, I see no reason to skip it.
After Family Trauma in Hill House and Relationship Grief in Bly Manor, we deal with Religion in Midnight Mass. I loved it right from the beginning. We see the impact Religion has had on this nearly broken society. There are characters to sympathize with, empathize with, and downright hate. The story introduces an easily hateable character very early in the story and is worthy of everyone’s attention. I haven’t felt that kind of hatred way in a long time. Not even Game of Thrones, infamous for its hated characters, could establish that this quick. Bear in mind this is a well-rounded character. I knew who they were immediate, having interacted with such folks more than I’d like. They got the most attention from me but that doesn’t take away from everyone else. Nearly every character is written around themes of religion and faith with considerable nuance and depth.
A lot of that credit goes to the great cast, which Flanagan as usual, gets so right. I can’t think of a single performance that detracted me from the story and they are worth most of the praise for the show.
Too much to say
The lack of scares is highly unfortunate, but I probably understand why it’s so. Flanagan intended for the theme itself to get under your skin (and it does) but that’s completely nullified by the over-extended and painfully obvious monologues. Religion and existentialism go together, and Flanagan really tried to combine both into giving us a story that’s not just a commentary on religion but how people perceive it. Sadly, as characters go into monologues, which worked well in Bly Manor, any sense of dread and tension immediately goes away. It’s so overdone that, by the end, I was left waiting for the episodes and stories to conclude. What’s more surprising is that it’s a much smaller number of episodes so you’d think it would be a much tighter story. It could’ve probably been even an episode and maybe even another half of an episode shorter.
So much potential
I think the story had potential. It isn’t as subtle as Bly Manor or Hill House with its supernatural elements, but I did enjoy it. Sadly, it wasn’t me but Flanagan who never really took the threat seriously himself. There are too many moments when the threat just disappears from the story and doesn’t come up until the plot needs it to. What’s supposed to be driving the plot finds itself driven by it and ultimately, I couldn’t take it too seriously myself.
Midnight Mass has too few scares and too many unnecessary monologues that kill any tension the story builds up. An intriguing theme of religion/existentialism and its great ensemble of characters are trapped in an otherwise forgettable experience.