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Mike Flanagan’s ‘Midnight Mass’ is Dense and Dazzling

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21.09.2021

In Netflix’s island-set limited series, exhausting religious elements are countered by great performances and inspired horror.

Netflix

By Valerie Ettenhofer · Published on September 21st, 2021

Welcome to Up Next, a column that gives you the rundown on the latest TV. This week, Valerie Ettenhofer reviews Midnight Mass, the highly anticipated standalone series from Mike Flanagan.

After delivering genre favorites like The Haunting of Hill House, Doctor Sleep, and Oculus, Mike Flanagan’s works have become easily identifiable among horror fans. They’re marked by both their humanity and their capacity to deeply unsettle. The filmmaker’s latest is Midnight Mass, a long-imagined passion project. The limited series will finally see release this week after a decade in the making, and the result is built to inspire awe. It’s ambitious, challenging, existential, and exhausting.

Midnight Mass takes place in the secluded American community of Crockett Island. A title card informs us early on that it has a population of 127. Crockett Island, semi-affectionately nicknamed The Crock Pot, has seen a downturn in recent years. An oil spill kneecapped the local economy and disheartened the denizens. Rumors of giant albatrosses, dolphins with bites taken out of them, and a ghost called Harpoon Harry don’t help with morale. The town is broken, and its citizens are plagued by human ailments including age, addiction, and anger.

There is, however, a beacon in the storm. It’s a Catholic church called St. Patrick’s. Pretty much everyone in town congregates there, except the island’s lone Muslim family. When Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford) returns to town after a tragic accident, he controversially abstains from the sacrament, isolated by his guilt. Meanwhile, the faithful of Crockett Island are galvanized by the presence........

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