Non-Blog | Channing Whitaker

What I've Been Watching: October 2021


Midnight Mass (Netflix, 2021) is the third horror mini-series Mike Flanagan has made for Netflix, and I enjoyed The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, so I was eager to take a look. I also believe that of the three, Midnight Mass is the only one not adapted from another work.


The story takes place on a remote New England island within an isolated community. Much of the story draws from religious dogma and customs, particularly Catholicism, though Flanagan also stirs in a Muslim family and a few atheists to add tensions. If you like Stigmata or The Exorcist for that aspect of religions' spookier side, then there is a lot to appreciate in Midnight Mass. What it is not is fast-paced, but none of Flanagan's Netflix Horror has been that.


It's hard to describe the nature of the actual horror in the series without spoiling some surprises, so I'll try to walk a careful line. The series starts with one character's traumatic life experience and briefly introduces several characters' personal issues. Viewers also become familiar with the dynamics and inherent tensions among the sparse residents of the island. But, again, it is a little slow getting to the scary.


Furthermore, what ends up being the big reveal of the series is not too difficult to foresee if one pays attention and is a horror-aficionado. But don't let that make you think it isn't worth watching. On the contrary, the most fun in the plot is that once you've gotten to know the characters, grown to like some, pity others, and come to downright despise a few, and then you realize what's going on unsaid. You can imagine the reckoning coming, and it is rather enjoyable to speculate and then wait to see what fate is in store for each in the cast of characters.


ON a deeper level, I felt the story was critical of religion. I've seen an interview with Flanagan, where he seems to avoid that interpretation. However, the story does depict how a person's religious devotion can be exploited by another to push them to do bad things. Just think about the wars, cult suicides, and such people have used religions to make others participate. The series also critics religious hypocrisy and holier-than-thou behavior. If the story is not a criticism of religion, then I'm comfortable calling it a critique of how people misuse religion and how others are vulnerable to being controlled by those willing to exploit their faith. 


Let's call it a compromise and go check it out for yourself.

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