‘Midnight Mass’ Redefines Horror with Strange Grace


“Midnight Mass” promo poster (Courtesy Netflix)

By Whit Fuller, Arts Writer


The Haunting of Hill House and “The Haunting of Bly Manor director Mike Flanagan’s latest series “Midnight Mass premiered on Netflix Sept. 24. The seven-episode miniseries quickly rose to the platform’s “Top-Ten in The US Today” category. It retained a placement there for several weeks following its release. 

“Midnight Mass”

The series tells the story of a dying island that is renewed by the arrival of a mysterious and oddly charming priest — Father Paul Hill (Hamish Linklater). As the residents of the island begin to cultivate a new relationship to their home’s religious roots, outcasts in the community — Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford) and Erin Greene (Kate Siegel) —  also find themselves among the newly invigorated congregation.

Things quickly turn dark when Father Paul is revealed to be harboring a secret — a visitation by a strange angel. Themes of the angel and communion recur throughout the series in dark and intriguing ways. Parishioners begin healing and finding strength during Father Paul’s powerful sermons. But there is a twisted duality to their betterment — a strange offering in the chalice of communion wine.

Riley and the rest of the community quickly become suspicious when normal daytime services are replaced with a midnight mass service. Father Paul soon after retires to the privacy of his own lodgings to pray and reflect during the day. Local religious woman Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan) becomes his right hand and pursues his vision for the congregation with extreme conviction.

When parishioners and island residents begin to go missing and the strange effects of the communion and Father Paul’s charismatic sermons continue to become more apparent; the island is plunged into a state of confusion and panic. Visitations from Father Paul’s strange angel and cases of parishioners becoming nocturnal further the discomfort surrounding the small community.

The island splits into factions: those who are held in the arms of the church and those who find themselves skeptics on the outskirts of the now religiously inclined community. Tension begins to build as Father Paul’s revelations and blessings are bestowed upon more members of the parish. His dark secret is revealed to a congregation of terrified parishioners during a particularly bloody midnight mass. 

A Horror Revelation

For fans of Flanagan’s earlier works, the series retains much of the creators’ stunning ability to blend horror and humanity in equally frightening and endearing ways. With its use of religious imagery and heavy questions of morality the show poses questions and enthralls its audience with complex grey area answers.

“Midnight Mass” is a masterfully crafted series that keeps the viewer engrossed from the first episode. The characters are both likable and detestable. They often fall between a grey area themselves. Whether it be the morality complex, the strange supernatural elements, or the occasional heart-warming displays of community — “Midnight Mass” offers a well-rounded assortment of offerings that redefine what horror can be. 


Rating: 5/5 stars

The series contains possible triggers for death of animals, violence, and themes of alcoholism, death, miscarriage and heavy religious themes/religious abuse. 


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