Midnight Mass (Netflix, 7 episodes). This is a creepy, slow burn horror tale that will make you queasy and then scare you. The story takes place in a delapidated fishing community on an isolated island. The homes and buildings are mostly run down, and the one-man police department is located in the back of the general store. The residents mostly live hand-to-mouth within an insular community where everyone knows everyone.
The island’s isolation is disturbed when two persons invade the community. One is the ex-con, Riley, who returns home after getting out of jail, and the other is a new priest, Father Paul, who replaces old Monsignor Pruitt. Slowly these two outsiders reshape island life.
Strange and weird things begin to happen. Seeming miracles occur at the hand of Father Paul. Soon, the moribund church is bursting at the seams with new devotees. Uber zealous Christian, Bev Keane, stands forth as the lay woman from hell...literally and figuratively.
Gradually, the awe of the miraculous slips into repulsion and horror as we gradually understand what is really going on. Can’t say much more without giving away spoilers, and this series is best experienced if the viewer does not know what is creeping around in the dark.
Midnight Mass is a fresh take on a common creature of horror movies. Just when I thought there was nothing new under the sun to be done in this space, Midnight Mass comes along and shows that there’s still gold in them thar hills.
Several things make this series stand out. One is the acting. Hamish Linklater (Father Paul) and Samantha Sloyan (Bev Keane) are outstanding, although there are few scenes when Linklater is guilty of chewing the proverbial scenery. Second, the series is as much a character study as anything, which gives the show unusual depth. Finally, the dialogue is ambitious, even if it doesn’t always work. I like that the show isn’t afraid to swing for the fences.
What are the downsides? The story is infused with sacramental Christianity. Most of the scenes revolve around Father Paul and the church. But make no mistake, Christianity takes a big hit here. Religious belief and fervor are shown to be twisted and disturbing. The religious element and commentary is provocative at times, but way over done. The show would have been better if the religious blather was dialed down several notches.
Another downside is that the characters are way too talky. We’re treated to long speeches and discussions about the meaning of life and god and faith. It just went on and on way too much for my taste. All right already, shut up and do something, dudes!
On balance, I give this series a mild recommendation. If you can tune out the excessive Christian mumbo jumbo, this is a gripping series. Slow burn horror at its best.