Midnight Mass – TV Miniseries (seven episodes)
Created and directed by Mike Flanagan
Featuring: Kate Siegel, Zack Gilford, Hamish Linklater, and Samantha Sloyan
Intrepid Pictures, released on Netflix, September 24, 2021
While searching for articles for a weekend news roundup a short time ago, I came across a couple of reviews for “Midnight Mass,” a new “Catholic horror” mini-series on Netflix. I’m not much of a television watcher, but Catholic horror films (“The Exorcist” and “The Omen”) played a part in my conversion to Christ, so I mentioned the series to my wife and we watched it together.
Plot (spoiler alert!)
A young man, Riley Flynn (Gilford), is released from prison for a drunk driving homicide. He returns to Crockett Island to try to piece his life back together. Concurrently, a new Catholic priest, “father” Paul (Linklater), arrives on the island and strange miracles begin to occur in connection with the “services” at St. Patrick’s Catholic church. A “religious revival” breaks out on the island as the inhabitants are drawn to the charismatic priest and the miraculous events. The stern parish assistant, Bev Keane (Sloyan), is especially captivated by the priest. We learn that “father” Paul is actually his predecessor at St. Patrick’s, Monsignor Pruitt, an aging priest who had onset dementia. Pruitt had taken a trip to the “Holy Land” and stumbled into the cave lair of a blood-thirsty demon. The demon’s blood transforms the aging priest into his younger self and Pruitt returned to the island incognito as “father” Paul. Priest Paul had been slipping the demon’s blood into the congregants’ communion wine, accounting for the transformational “miracles.”
Priest Paul dies (via poison from Bev Keane?) and is resurrected to become a full-fledged, blood-sucking vampire. One of his first “indoctrinees” is the trusting Riley, who then informs his girlfriend, Erin (Siegel), of what’s really going down on the island before he self-immolates via the sun’s rays at dawn. The sunshine-shy priest holds a midnight mass at the church and invites the credulous congregants to also drink the “Kool-Aid” poison so that they too can be reborn to great spiritual heights (as bloodsuckers) and together bring their bloody “gospel” to the mainland. Erin and a few other incredulous inhabitants escape the mayhem and begin burning all of the boats and buildings on the island so that the neo-vampires can’t escape and will be immolated by the rays of the rising sun at dawn. The vampires hunt the rebels down and priest Paul’s anti-vampire “love-child” is killed in the fracas, giving him second thoughts, much to the angry consternation of “true-believer,” Bev Keane. At dawn, the sun’s rays destroy the “repentant” priest and all of the other defenseless vampires.
One article writer opined that Midnight Mass is ex-Catholic, Mike Flanagan’s commentary on “the dark role religion can play in the lives of people.” Pseudo-Christian Roman Catholicism is conspicuously creepy with its rites, rituals, ceremonies, and its bloody history. It’s a counterfeit of true Christianity and the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Flanagan takes many pot-shots at Roman Catholicism in this series and I’m not entirely unsympathetic, but the former altar boy is far from irreligious. As Erin lays dying after being attacked/bitten by the demon, and before the impending sunrise, she rattles off a five-minute New Age soapbox soliloquy that would do Oprah and Deepak proud. She makes her dying case for no Heaven and no Hell, and philosophizes that everyone is a part of the eternal cosmos, etc., etc., etc. Hmm, that New Age fluff doesn’t exactly mesh with a demon terrorizing souls for seven one-hour-long episodes.
The performances by the principals were very good. It’s eerie watching Linklater rationalizing his evil schemes in the name of God, quite evocative of actual Roman Catholic church history. Samantha Sloyan is excellent as Bev Keane, the self-righteous “church lady” who is evil personified. I have run across more than a few über-sanctimonious Bev Keanes in my Christian journey.
This was an entertaining horror frolic with many insightful “jabs” at Roman Catholicism, but get your theology from God’s Word, the Bible, rather than from Mike Flanagan. Some believers would object to watching a horror film like “Midnight Mass.” I get it, but in my case the Holy Spirit used religious-themed horror films, among other things, to lead me to Christ. I observe that some Christians object to watching fictional demons in a silly horror movie (understandable, I don’t make it a habit, either), but will enthusiastically endorse ecumenism with false teachers (e.g., the pope and Roman Catholic prelates and priests) with their false gospels.
Trivia: “Midnight Mass” was filmed at uninhabited Garry Point Park peninsula near Vancouver, Canada. All of the buildings seen in the series were built by the production crew. Playing Riley Flynn’s father is Henry Thomas. Remember him? The now-forty-nine-year-old Thomas played Elliot in “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” way back in 1982.
Postscript: I used to love going to Christmas Eve midnight mass as a young child, mainly because of the novelty of staying up so late and also knowing Christmas morning mass wouldn’t be interfering with the opening of presents. I also enjoyed the grand pageantry. When I was in my mid-twenties I read the New Testament for the first time and learned that sacerdotal priests and sacrifice for sin had been ended by Jesus Christ. Both priests and sacrifice for sin are anti-Biblical blasphemy and affronts to Jesus Christ.