Home Reviews REVIEW: Don’t attend this MIDNIGHT MASS

REVIEW: Don’t attend this MIDNIGHT MASS

If you must attend MIDNIGHT MASS, don't say I didn't warn you.

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MIDNIGHT MASS (L to R) HAMISH LINKLATER as FATHER PAUL in episode 101 of MIDNIGHT MASS Cr. EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX © 2021

“Why does Midnight Mass exist?” was a question I repeatedly asked myself through all seven episodes of this miniseries. That may sound mean or overly critical, but I found myself asking it because this limited series doesn’t know what it wants to be. Religious horror? Monster horror? Family drama? Religious drama? A kitchen-sink drama, with every possible social issue thrown in for good measure? Midnight Mass doesn’t know what wants to be, and even when it gets a hint of what it could be, it yanks it away.

The reason I asked to review this show, despite my lukewarm feelings on both The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, was 1) because I had hoped that Mike Flanagan, free of any trimmings of adaptation, would spread his wings and really fly and 2) because Rahul Kohli is a good actor, and I wanted to see if he got something substantial to do here. Rahul Kohli does get some great things to do here, and he does them admirably; if Flanagan gets another series order from Netflix, and I suspect he will, hopefully, Kohli gets to actually play the main character. Unfortunately, all of Flanagan’s worst instincts come into play here, along with some very muddled thoughts on religion.

MIDNIGHT MASS (L to R) RAHUL KOHLI as SHERIFF HASSAN in episode 101 of MIDNIGHT MASS Cr. EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX © 2021

First and foremost, the monologues, oh god, the monologues in Midnight Mass; there’s so many per episode on this show that it makes the head spin. They’re not fun monologues or monologues that have any drop of the individual characters’ traits in them, except maybe for Father Paul’s (Hamish Linklater), but his are bombastic, over the top, and completely clueless on what his brand of theology would probably be. Father Paul’s messages are more evangelical territory as opposed to Catholic territory, I say that as someone who was raised evangelical, and who’s been an atheist now for some time. Maybe if you were raised in any denomination of Christian and eventually turned atheist it’ll be a universal experience, but somehow, I don’t think so.

Everyone on the show is trapped on this little island, except they’re not really trapped because they could leave at any time on one of the two ferries. I suppose the idea is that you always get called home sooner or later, but at the same time…people could just leave this depressing little fishing village and go to the vague “mainland.” I have so many questions about this little island: is there no library, does no one read anything other than the Bible? Why would Kohli’s character come here, even in the face of the racism of the big city? Wouldn’t the racism of a small, ultra-Catholic island town be worse for a Muslim father and son? Why does a woman like Bev Keene (Samantha Sloyan) have such power if the whole island hates her deplorable guts? Sloyan does a good job with an unredeemable character, but some of the things Bev says are so nasty, so beyond the pale, that rooting for her death really isn’t an unacceptable thing to do. She’s this island’s version of Kai Winn or Dolores Umbridge, for a more mainstream example of a lunatic fanatic.

MIDNIGHT MASS (L to R) SAMANTHA SLOYAN as BEV KEANE in episode 106 of MIDNIGHT MASS Cr. EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX © 2021

At a certain point in Midnight Mass, everyone seems really, incredibly stupid. I won’t go into it, but there’s a point where being irrational just becomes being stupid as all get out, and this show crosses that line with most of its characters extremely quickly once the time for the real “horror” to begin. The first few episodes of the show are slow, methodical, and all about building character. The last episodes are a bad roller coaster ride, from start to finish, each one more ludicrous than the last. Maybe my dislike of this whole miniseries is because horror has to have some grounding in reality for me to really like it.

Midnight Mass might have been doomed from the start; any series that tries to do so much when it could just be a fun horror romp usually is. That Flanagan has aspirations beyond being fun isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it comes bad when the writing around topics like religion and race gets muddled beyond anything recognizable as something from our world.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I think the point is that it’s no longer any particular religion and is infact a cult. Cults frequently ask their followers do the unimaginable and often have roots in other religions.
    They mentioned people were leaving and people had left but there. If you have no money to leave well you aren’t going anywhere and since most of them had their livelihoods destroyed I guess they are stuck.
    As for someone going there to escape racism he went to escape racism in the system like he said?

    The monologues are a bit long but I really enjoyed it.

  2. THANK GOD (pardon the reference) that this review exists. I thought I was the only one who DISLIKED this series because there are so many “favorable” reviews for this … poorly written, amateurly paced, HAM FISTED, faux contemplative, bad “Stephen King-esk” waste of time. I’m only on episode 4, and it’s been a REAL slog ! I don’t need to see a poor attempt of some writer working out their issues with (any) religion while they slap on a “horror” theme to hide the fact, ans sell it to some clueless entertainment executive. This series (so far) has been one of the WORST things I have seen money wasted on, in a very long time.

  3. Grateful this review exists. This show was a nightmare that we ravenously devoured over two nights. We loved hating it and I might recommend it to friends. Let’s make this an annual holiday where we all gather round the campfire and tell the tale of the stupidest, most ponderous dreg to grace the screen since the Snyder Cut.

  4. Hamish Linklater is intolerable in this show. His long, drawn out, rambling, almost stuttering dialogue is beyond painful. He really ruined it for me, that and the fact it’s like a watered down Salem’s Lot. Do yourself a favor and watch Chapelwaite on Epix instead, or worse (but not as bad as this) American Horror Story – Double Feature. This was utter crap and clearly Netflix paid for the positive reviews. Mike Flanagan, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

  5. I’m anti-religious yet I almost prayed to All the gods for the priest to rip out Bev’s jugular when she brought him the soup… but alas I knew there would be no point since I’d already checked and confirmed that the actress was in all the remaining episodes :(

  6. Thank you – I have found my peeps ;). I was stunned, after forcing myself to watch the entire 7 episodes and eventually skipping the interminable monologues, to find overwhelming praise for this garbage all over the internet. The characters had no personality to speak of, except maybe evil Bev and all the monologues were Flanagan’s essays coming out of their mouths, not the way actual people speak to each other.
    And that ending was unintentionally hilarious, with characters standing around monologuing while vampires were chasing them down, and making decisions no human would ever make.
    Appreciate this review.

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