Review: MIDNIGHT MASS Profoundly Examines Religious Manipulation

MIDNIGHT MASS (L to R) KATE SIEGEL as ERIN GREENE in episode 107 of MIDNIGHT MASS Cr. EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX © 2021

Midnight Mass is a chilling look at the demise of an isolated island through religious horror. Mike Flanagan returns with another compelling Netflix series centered on a misguided community. The emotional weight showcased in his Haunting series is present in Midnight Mass, but not on the same level. Flanagan takes audiences on a religious journey that leaves you feeling like you’ve endured a cathartic exercise. It’s a series that highlights how faith can be used to corrupt and manipulate.

Drawing inspiration from The Bible, the series raises important questions about faith, life, and redemption. Each used for sinister intentions unbeknownst to this island community. Midnight Mass had been in the works for a while. Flanagan has teased the project in his past works. Finally, the long-awaited dream comes to life, and fans will get to experience it later this week. Directed and written by Mike Flanagan, Midnight Mass stars Zach Gilford, Hamish Linklater, Annabeth Gish, Samantha Sloyan, Rahul Kohli, Robert Longstreet, and Kate Siegel. The series centers on Crockett Island, an isolated community that begins to experience unspeakable miracles after the arrival of a young priest, Father Paul (Linklater), and the return of a troubled man, Riley Flynn (Gilford). These miracles aren’t from God, and the community struggles to recognize this.

MIDNIGHT MASS (L to R) ANNABETH GISH as DR. SARAH GUNNING, and KATE SIEGEL as ERIN GREENE in episode 106 of MIDNIGHT MASS Cr. EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX © 2021

Riley Flynn, a recovering alcoholic who has been released from prison after serving a four-year sentence. He is the focus early on and returns to his family on Crockett Island. Wanting to start fresh, Riley’s homecoming isn’t well received. Crockett Island is a catholic community filled with many different age groups and an attachment to God. The community gathers at St. Patrick’s for services, but a few inhabitants suffer from old age, inability to walk, body aches, and other life hiccups. However, the arrival of Father Paul unlocks the miracles described in the text they cherish. A religious resurgence occurs, but Father Paul’s presence brings darkness to Crockett Island.

Flanagan is a genius when it comes to telling gripping stories about recovery and trauma. Midnight Mass doesn’t hit the same highs as his Haunting series, but still unpacks a thought-provoking look at religion being used against an entire community. Riley’s presence serves as a stumbling block for Father Paul because Riley is more of a rational person. He doesn’t fully commit to the existence of God because he wonders where was God when he committed the act that landed him in prison. His only ally outside of his family comes in the form of Erin Greene (Siegel). She returned to Crockett after leaving to pursue an acting career but instead endured an abusive relationship. She works as a school teacher in the community and serves as a symbol for Mary from The Bible.

MIDNIGHT MASS (L to R) ZACH GILFORD as RILEY FLYNN in episode 105 of MIDNIGHT MASS Cr. EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX © 2021

Flanagan doesn’t seek to make Father Paul a villain, his faith has been exploited and he’s bringing the issues to Crockett Island. His intentions are for the best, but this is no work of God occurring across the community. Father Paul’s corruption from going outside his religious community speaks to how society can be used to manipulate one’s faith. Midnight Mass beautifully depicts how faith can be distorted to catapult one’s self. Father Paul creates a religious resurgence while withholding information about his motivations from his congregation. Joining forces with Bev Keane (Sloyan), a self-righteous resident that Father Paul believes can be used to his advantage. She believes God values her more than any other member at St. Patrick’s, so her faith was exploited by Paul early on.

Another stumbling block for Father Paul is Sheriff Hassan (Kohli), who moved to Crockett after a family tragedy, he follows islamic faith as well. His son Ali is exposed to views he doesn’t agree with, so this creates an issue during this religious resurgence. Riley’s struggles make him an interesting character to watch navigate through these miracles. He is haunted by his mistake, doesn’t believe in God, and part of him doesn’t think he deserves forgiveness. The core characters are compelling, which only enhances the emotions during some of their demises. Flanagan is no stranger to character depth, and the residents of Crockett Island will have audiences invested early on.

MIDNIGHT MASS (L to R) HAMISH LINKLATER as FATHER PAUL in episode 103 of MIDNIGHT MASS Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

 Midnight Mass is brought to life by the impeccable performances put on display. Gilford’s performance as Riley is a stoic one, but time spent with Erin unlocks his softer side. Riley’s redemption arc becomes an act of love, and Gilford’s portrayal makes the character likable. Siegel impresses as Erin Greene, the teacher with a past she isn’t ashamed to own. Her mistakes make her stronger and Siegel captures that inner confidence with ease. Flanagan keeps viewers on the edge, the tension rising with each new episode, and there’s this constant feeling of hopelessness. The series is a visual feast filled with haunting shots of Crockett Island that get amplified by The Newton Brothers’ bone-chilling score.

Midnight Mass delivers a thought-provoking journey that fans of Flanagan have come to expect. It’s an emotional rollercoaster about doubt, redemption, death, and faith that becomes increasingly terrifying as it progresses. A haunting but heartfelt examination of faith demolishing a community. Midnight Mass is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will leave audiences floored.

By Eric Trigg

 I am Horror fanatic that can't go a single month without watching something horror related. Buffy Summers, Sidney Prescott, and Harry Potter for president. The fact that sequels exist proves there is no perfect film. 

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