Sunday, October 3, 2021

Midnight Mass

TV Show Name:
Midnight Mass
Year of Release: 2021
Created by: Mike Flanagan
Director: Mike Flanagan
Stars: Kate Siegel, Zach Gilford, Henry Thomas, Hamish Linklater, Annabeth Gish, Kristin Lehman, Samantha Sloyan, Rahul Kohli, Igby Rigney, Annarah Cymone, Alex Essoe, Matt Biedel, Michael Trucco, Louis Oliver, Robert Longstreet, Ebony Booth, John C. MacDonald
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4
View Trailer

Writer/Producer/Director Mike Flanagan continues his ongoing relationship with NetFlix, this time around with another mini-series, originally created by him. The mini-series starts by introducing us to Riley Flynn, who following a drunken accident is sentenced to prison due to the fatality that was incurred as a direct result of that accident. Upon his release, he returns to his family, hoping to pick up the pieces and restart his life. His family lives in a small island, Crockett Island, where most of its inhabitants are very religious and frequent mass regularly. While some of the families in the island have been there for quite some time, some of its most recent inhabitants are people who grew up there, left to pursue some adventures, and are now back to somewhat resume their lives and recover from whatever they experienced. A new priest also appears, by the name of Father Paul, indicating the previous reverend is taking a rest, following a much desired trip to the Holly Land. As Father Paul starts interacting with the congregation and providing his sermons, life in the small community starts changing, subtly at first, and dramatically as time progresses. And this is something that affects everyone in the community. Riley who is going to AA, and has his sessions with Father Paul, notices some incongruences and outspoken lies. What lies beneath Father Paul's actions reveal something far more sinister than what anyone could have anticipated.
The talented Mike Flanagan has been keeping himself quite busy, with a rapid succession of projects, which have included the well received "Gerald's Game", "The Haunting of Hill House", "Doctor Sleep", with "The Haunting of Bly Manor" being the first of his projects to somewhat fail to get universal praise (in all fairness, "Doctor Sleep" while fairly well received, wasn't unanimously appreciated). "Midnight Mass", while not an exact stumble, isn't as well accomplished as his previous projects. And a lot of the issues are tied to the momentum of the storyline, and also how for the most part the characters background and exposition is uneven, and at times feels like a bombardment of information. The mini-series starts with a strong premise, adding value to its momentum the fact that the narrative takes place in this smallish island, where everyone knows everyone. There are faint traces of Stephen King's influence in the way the community is described (particularly some ties with "The Mist"), but as Father Paul makes his appearance and the religious aspect of the community becomes visible, it's also pummeled into the audience, in a somewhat of a repetitive aspect. The whole aspect of the island being a shelter for people who ventured out an were battered by the world, is never truly fully explored, since the focus always returns to the religious belief and what Father Paul is trying to do. These two parallel threads eventually merge, but for some time the show gives the impression of going in different paths. As the big revelation occurs and violence escalates, the show loses some of its impact, since the massive cult like aspect of the narrative is never fully explored. Ultimately this is a show that has a lot of ideas, and could have gone in a variety of directions, but where it went is somewhat unsatisfying and a bit contrived. The cast is uniformly solid, with Hamish Linklater, Annabeth Gish, Henry Thomas, Matt Biedel and Samantha Sloyan all creating vivid performances. The cinematography from Michael Fimognari is solid, as is the score from The Newton Brothers. Here's hoping Mike Flanagan's next project allows him to focus on a more tightly woven narrative.