Netflix’s annual spooky-season limited series seriously delivers “Midnight Mass,” from the creators of “The Haunting of Hill House” and “The Haunting of Bly Manner.” It’s the best blend of religious conviction, subtle suspense and a chilling plot.
After getting drunk and crashing into a young woman’s car and killing her, Riley Flynn is sentenced to four years in prison. After serving his time, haunted by the vision of the woman he killed each night, Riley returns home.
Crockett Island, affectionately known as Crock Pot, is a run-down island, accessed exclusively by a ferry which only comes by twice a day. Riley’s return isn’t exactly easy. While his mother is ecstatic to have him home, his father still harbors resentment for leaving in the first place. His younger brother is practically indifferent. The rebirth of his old flame, Erin Greene, further complicates the narrative.
Complicated familiarity and community aren’t the only hardships Riley faces as strange events begin to happen all over the island. The head of the Catholic church never returns from his trip.
Father Paul, the religious replacement, reassures the congregation that this is temporary and that Monsignor Perrot will return shortly. As the days stretch into weeks, however, it becomes increasingly doubtful he will return.
After a destructive storm hits the island, dead cats, all drained of their blood, wash up from another island close by called the Uppards.
This all occurs in the pilot episode. In the proceeding five episodes, the island is hit with miracles and curses alike as it’s residents struggle with guilt, repentance and religious struggles.
While both “The Haunting” shows favored increasing suspense and leaving the main plot points up to the final episode, “Midnight Mass” introduces new plot points while still expanding on old ones, giving the show a sense of connectivity. It has those audio jumpscares, hidden lore clues and odd characters that the creators are known for, but it also introduces heavy theming, relationship building and an off-screen horror element that slowly creeps into the frame with each passing episode.
The religious element of this show is hard to overlook. Every song played during each hour-long episode is a gospel song, or at least a song that could be interpreted as one. The majority of scenes occur within the St. Patrick’s church on the island, and Father Paul talks almost exclusively in prayers. Each episode is even dedicated to the themes and lessons found in different sections of the Bible.
For Christ-centered religious folks, it’s an interesting and dramatic commentary on religion and acts as a cautionary tale against religious extremism. Crockett Island is also home to a Muslim father and son, who often face religious intolerance and pressures to convert to Catholicism. This shines a light on real struggle many people of all religions face.
“Midnight Mass” is everything a Netflix special aims to be. It’s compelling, broken down into manageable bits, and features actors that bring their own depth and nuance to the already well-written characters. It’s the perfect series to turn off the lights and settle down into.
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