[‘MIDNIGHT MASS’ Review] Flanagan and Netflix set a high bar for fall television with thoughtful, scary series

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

MIDNIGHT MASS

Rated TV-MA, about an hour per episode. (Total 383 minutes.)
Creator: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Kate Siegel, Hamish Linklater, Zach Gilford, Rahul Kohli, Annabeth Gish, Samantha Sloyan, Henry Thomas, Kristin Lehman, Annarah Cymone, Louis Oliver, Matt Biedel, Rahul Abburi, Crystal Balint and Alex Essoe

Writer-director Mike Flanagan and producer Trevor Macy are kings of mixing horror with genuinely moving drama. Each of the works they’ve teamed on — The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Doctor Sleep, Gerald’s Game, Hush and Ouija: Origin of Evil — explores complex human emotions through the lens of horror. The conversations their characters have with each other feel like the same kind of thoughtful exchanges you have with friends over backyard fires. They get deep, and this couldn’t be more true for Midnight Mass — a seven-part Netflix miniseries about an isolated community that experiences miraculous events.

Starring Kate Siegel, Hamish Linklater and Zach Gilford, Midnight Mass is easily the best series or film that Flanagan and Macy have ever done. It never stops being compelling and dread-filled. In many ways, it collects themes scattered across Flanagan and Macy’s filmographies and amplifies them. Additionally, there are parallels to the uncertain world that we currently live in that provide a lot of food for thought. Think of it as something that exists between Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master and Stephen King’s Storm of the Century, mainly for its heated existential and morbid conversations.

This is a series that significantly benefits from you knowing as little as possible going into it. It requires patience for those who are eager to feel the frights. Similar to Hill House and Bly Manor, it steadily builds its momentum, making you care and relate to characters before unleashing a supernatural fury juiced with nightmare fuel. And because it takes its time, the moments of horror and drama hit with incredible impact. I dare you to find another film or tv series this year that will cause you to lean in, grab your couch armrests and punch you in the gut more than this. 

While it may be a bit long-winded at times and probably could have used more meditative moments, it’s a smartly crafted piece. Each episode ends on a note that makes it easy to binge and simultaneously warrants pausing to have conversations of your own. It delves into the horrors of religion in fascinating ways and has biblical ties that may cause your eyes to widen and send your hand over your mouth. How Flanagan and Macy manage to weave all these big ideas without fraying is astonishing. (Look out for award-worthy performances from Linklater and Samantha Sloyan as members of the cloth. Ooh! They’ll stick with you.)

Grade: A

Watch all seven episodes exclusively on Netflix today.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.