A young man seeking to atone for his sins returns to his childhood home of Crockett Island. At the same time, a charismatic priest arrives and brings with him a renewed religious fervor to the small, isolated community. As the days go by, strange events that some townspeople believe are miracles begin to occur. Why are they happening? Are these truly miracles? Is this God’s will? These are the questions at the heart of Mike Flanagan’s Netflix Original limited series, Midnight Mass.
Over the course of 7 episodes, Mike Flanagan reinforces just why he has become so beloved by the horror community. There is constant, seeping dread layered throughout almost every moment of Midnight Mass. You’ll likely figure out where at least some of the plot is heading early on but that only adds to the dread, being two steps ahead of the characters who you have quickly grown to love only makes it more terrifying.
Outside of what I said up top, I won’t give out many more details on the plot. In my opinion, this is a story best experienced cold. The dread brought on by this show is unlike any I have felt before; this comes down to the intense mistrust of religion I have, especially Catholicism. The show’s depiction of Catholicism being weaponized to incite a fervor in the people of this town activated my fight-or-flight instinct unlike any show or movie I have seen.
Why did it activate my fight-or-flight like that? It’s hard to put into words. I was not raised Catholic, I wasn’t raised under the doctrine of any religion. I don’t particularly believe in the existence of God. Some sort of higher power? Yeah, I can see that being the case, but God? No. This is why I was so shocked by my reaction to the, for lack of a better word, hysteria the show presents that is induced by the miracles happening in this town. As I said, I don’t have an answer for why I felt the way I did. It just is.
That’s enough about my religious fears, let’s talk about the cast. And what a cast it is! Across the whole production the entire cast brings their A-game to the proceedings, regardless of the size of their roles. Regular Mike Flanagan collaborators Samantha Sloyan, Henry Thomas, Annabeth Gish, and Robert Longstreet deserve special praise; each of their characters go through very different journeys from the others, but all of them kill it. Unsurprising, if you’ve seen their other work with Flanagan. New members to Flanagan’s expanding troupe of actors, Michael Trucco and Kristin Lehman, are also great throughout, and I hope to see them in the director’s future work.
There are three specific cast members I want to focus on. First, Kate Siegel, frequent Flanagan collaborator, also his wife. But that doesn’t matter. No, what matters is that her character is one of pure heartbreaking beauty. To go into why would be spoiling. Just know that Siegel puts in one of the most emotionally honest performances I’ve ever seen. Then there’s Rahul Kohli, who stole our hearts in The Haunting of Bly Manor and likely will again here. Later on in the series, in one specific scene, Kohli delivers a monologue about his past that shows why he is one of the best actors working today. Finally, we come to Hamish Linklater, who plays Father Paul, the charismatic priest who arrives at the beginning of the series. He gives off such manic energy in his performance you’d think that’s all there is to it. But no, at Father Paul’s heart is a gentleness, one that ends up being perhaps the central heart of Midnight Mass.
I would love to talk about one other cast member, but even mentioning the actor’s name counts as a spoiler. Just know that you will understand when I say their performance is so convincing, it may very well be the best in the series. More so than any of the other cast members I’ve mentioned above.
I’ll wrap this review up here. To discuss the show any further could very well ruin the experience. If you enjoyed Flanagan’s other horror masterpieces, be it his previous Netflix shows Hill House and Bly Manor, or the incredible Stephen King adaptation Doctor Sleep, you know what you’re getting into. A tale of horror more likely to make you cry than scare you.