*SCARY STUFF WARNING*
*TALK ABOUT RELIGION WARNING*
Time goes way too fast for me. I saw Midnight Mass on Netflix about eight months ago and have wanted to write about it, but I’m just now getting around to it.
If you haven’t seen or heard of it, Midnight Mass is a seven-episode miniseries created and directed by Mike Flanagan. Flanagan’s inspiration came from his Catholic upbringing and recovery from alcoholism. The genre is supernatural horror, the same as The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, both of which he created previously for Netflix.
David Fear of Rolling Stone magazine called Midnight Mass extraordinary. A critic on Rotten Tomatoes called it “gorgeous and unsettling.” Tomatoes revealed it had an 89% approval rating.
Okay, some felt it was too much of a Salem’s Lot rip-off, paying homage to Stephen King. Those influences were there, sure, but, in my opinion, that’s a good thing.
Anyway, the filming of Midnight Mass took place in Vancouver, at a seaside public area called Garry Point Park. Garry Point Park became Midnight Mass’s fictional Crockett Island, a small offshore fishing village whose inhabitants are trying to recover economically from an oil spill that devastated its fishing industry.
Riley Flynn is the main character who comes home to Crockett Island from prison after his drunk driving resulted in a woman’s death.
The supernatural element stems from the arrival of a stranger; a priest called Father Paul. And while Father Paul is charismatic, he is not exactly normal. He performs miracles amid tragedy with winged, blood-sucking creatures lurking. I’m not a fan of gore, but if a series is good, I’ll endure whatever I must (Hello, Game of Thrones) and, if necessary, resort to covering my eyes. (Of course, I’ll peek out of one eye.)
Ultimately, Father Paul seduces his whole island of followers, pushing them to poison themselves with cultlike devotion. It reminded me of the preacher and mass murderer, Jim Jones, who was solely responsible for the Jonestown, Guyana massacre in 1978. Some viewers complained about Father Paul’s profound monologues from beginning to end, but I enjoyed them. Honestly, I found the entire series brilliant and thought-provoking.
Hamish Linklater as Father Paul received widespread acclaim for his character portrayal, and yes, he was great. Jen Chaney of Vulture called his performance “phenomenal” and believed he elevated the series to “moments of greatness,” writing: “he speaks as if he’s discovering his way through every sentence and wants you to come with him.”
Other noteworthy performances include Zach Gilford as Riley Flynn, Robert Longstreet as Joe Collie, the town drunk, Rahul Kohli as Sheriff Hassan, Kate Siegel as Riley’s childhood sweetheart, Samantha Sloyan as a high and mighty zealot, and Henry Thomas as Riley’s father.
There was tremendous praise for Flanagan’s directing.
However, many Christians found Midnight Mass offensive in every regard.
Sherriff Hassan, as a Muslim, feels like an outsider, with the townspeople forcing Christianity on his son. And Riley questioned his faith, which I thought seemed normal after what happened to him. Even the most devout have struggled to keep the faith. We’re supposed to be human and flawed, right?
Another complaint was that Midnight Mass portrays a vampire as an angel. Father Paul is romanticized and sexualized, ranging from benevolent to malevolent. But doesn’t the Bible have angels who rebelled against God? The fallen ones who’d decided God was a despotic, unmerciful tyrant and got sentenced to eternity in hell?
I read a comment that “priests would be able to recognize evil and not succumb to it,” yet they’ll defend the pedophile priest with arguments that the devil targets him, relentlessly tempting and “tricking” him. That’s just bullshit, but in the holy books, Satan is a powerful and ruthless rebel—a trickster who will constantly aim to manipulate and deceive you. While I may not believe these things, I learned while growing up Catholic that the devil will have his reign upon earth. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard that one. So, it’s hardly shocking that Midnight Mass presents you with a version of the legendary Anti-Christ, who predictably fools people.
Midnight Mass also explores humanity’s desperate quest for eternal life, which is the “gift” offered to Father Paul’s followers in this story. The gift, in addition, relieves them of pain and suffering. I believe that’s why vampire lore is so popular. It dangles that gift and explores its consequences.
Midnight Mass presents the idea that “we must do evil to combat evil.” That misguided belief system is out there. Just look at the justification for people denying others fundamental human rights, justice, and dignity. Consider the lengths they will go to oppress and punish people for not being what the bigots say they’re supposed to be. No, not every religious person is like that, but no one can deny the mentality is out there. People believe they are combating evil and might have to resort to atrocious behavior themselves to accomplish that.
At the same time, some believe in a loving, merciful, forgiving God and opt for the perception of him that is consistent with the caring and compassionate Jesus. Others fear God as a cruel, unforgiving, punishing entity who is offended by slights to his ego and will ask that you do horrendous things to prove your devotion to him, and they obey him to avoid punishment. Well, Father Paul is a depiction of the latter.
Of course, I can’t tell people what should or shouldn’t offend them. None of it offends me, but I don’t share their belief system and so reserve judgment. I will say that some of the best characters in Midnight Mass were Christians and made admirable sacrifices rather than succumbing to all the madness. And most were victims of a psychopath leader. Except, in this story, people fought back.
I believe Midnight Mass is still on Netflix. If you enjoy this kind of stuff, check it out.