‘Midnight Mass’ delivers Netflix a creepy horror series that’s a bit too long winded
Midnight Mass’ delivers Netflix a creepy horror series that’s a bit too long-winded.
As is typical of such material, “Midnight Mass” starts off as a scary, intriguing horror story but ultimately falls short of expectations.
The Netflix series, created by Mike Flanagan of “The Haunting of Hill House,” deserves credit for its unique aspirations and jolting shocks,
but it often plays like a long-winded sermon, frittering about the margins of its message.
Flanagan penned the script for Stephen King’s next film “Doctor Sleep,”
which is fitting given that the seven-episode production seems like a King miniseries, for better or worse.
Good because the suspense pulls the viewer in,
but poor since the ending is a major disappointment, as is often the case with King-inspired works.
(For his part, the prolific novelist has already praised the program on Twitter.)
Other derivative elements the 1979 version of “Nosferatu” comes to mind may be found in this gruesome and intellectual story,
which delves extensively into the connection between religion and vampirism, with the latter’s rising-from-the-dead, blood-drinking features.
The story revolves around Riley (“Friday Night Lights'” Zach Gilford), a young guy attempting to put his life back together after doing time for a deadly automobile accident,
and Father Paul (Hamish Linklater), a mystery priest who comes to replace an older clergyman who has long served the town.
Riley reunites with a high-school crush, Erin (Kate Siegel, reconnecting with Flanagan,
her husband, after the “Haunting” series), and laments how their lives haven’t gone as planned.
Strange and apparently supernatural occurrences start to happen soon after, prompting talk of miracles and religious enthusiasm,
but the roots of those acts and Father Paul’s connection to them may be much more nefarious.
The first several episodes plod along without much of a feeling of urgency (most of the episodes are over an hour long),
sprinkling just enough hints that something terrible is on the way.
When the answers eventually arrive, they’re not entirely satisfactory,
but they do spark some serious discussions about Bible interpretation and surprising responses among Paul’s flock.
There’s also an intriguing, though undeveloped, subplot with the Muslim sheriff (Rahul Kohli),
and how he and his kid fit in as the church’s position grows more polarised.
What differentiates “Midnight Mass,” aided by a cast that includes Henry Thomas and Annabeth Gish, is the nature of its themes and the degree to which Flanagan obviously wants to explore them while playing with horror tropes, trying to engage the viewer in a surprisingly complex manner.
The finale, on the other hand, is more perplexing than exciting, proving chaotic in ways that don’t make much sense in the end.
That doesn’t negate the more intriguing parts, but as the book comes to a conclusion, “Midnight Mass” causes too much soul-searching about whether the time invested was worthwhile.
Flanagan’s visit to the chapel does function in strange ways, but they aren’t entirely gratifying.