Lestat here. I know. You’re wondering “What, in the name of all that is indecent and uhholy, what is The Brat Prince doing in Castle Blogferatu?” Well, how I came to know these poor creatures is a delicious little tale in and of itself, but that’s not why I speak to you today. No, I’m here to throw some shade, as it were, on Mike Flanagan’s much touted Midnight Mass.
Seems Flanagan is horror cinema’s current golden boy wracking up an admittedly impressive amount of fright fare over the last decade, not the least of which being Absentia, Hush and Doctor Sleep. Truth be told, I’m very much a fan. Still, every silver lining needs its dark cloud, a role I’m always delighted to fill.
Formalities first. At the behest of my gracious Host (that will be humorous soon), I’ve been asked to warn you that, being the petty bastard I am, there are some vicious, unapologetic spoilers to come. Should such things perturb your winsome nature, stop here.
Right. Midnight Mass is Flanagan’s 7-part Netflix miniseries. I went into this absolutely blind based entirely on seeing a single trailer. It looked like folk horror, maybe something along the lines of The Borderlands or The Apostle. Sign me up. Alas, I was woefully mistaken and more than a little annoyed. Why? Vampires. Sigh…not again. Anything but vampires. Ironic, coming from someone with my dentition and proclivities, yes?
Oh well. In for a penny as they say. By the end of the 4th episode, though, I thought, “So this is where we’re going with this?” But I persevered, if for no other reason, so I’d have more ammunition with which to communicate my dissatisfaction.
The premise is simple enough. A new priest arrives in the small hamlet of Crockett Island, home to little over 100 souls. He’s there to fill in for the old priest who has been taken ill during a trip to The Holy Land. But the new guy is not, in fact, the new priest. He’s the old priest, transformed and revitalized by a vampire he encountered during said pilgrimage.
Except he’s convinced he was “saved” by an angel, and he brings it back to island with him in order to transform and save his flock. Admittedly some of the plot mechanics are clever, and the more steeped in Catholicism one is, the more parts of Midnight Mass will resonate (much to the credit of Flanagan and his small band of writers).
There’s a great deal of reference to the body and blood, resurrection, eternal life—things that could have worked well if not overshadowed by some of the series’s egregious flaws. A big, big one of those I apparently share with a vocal minority on Letterboxd, is the unwieldy amount of speechafyin’ made by many of the main characters. They. Talk. Soo. Much. And it’s not just that these soliloquies are long. No. They’re also tedious.
If I wanted self-important pontificating, I’d go back to church. I don’t think I’m exaggerating that this series could be trimmed by a couple episodes just by losing most of these personal testimonies. Don’t get me wrong. Big chunks of talk can still be interesting and entertaining. Think Aaron Sorkin for example—fast, witty, clever intellect as opposed to self-indulgent, brooding, pseudophilosophical “intensity.”
It’s also worth blasting the fates of the main characters. Most of them are folks we’ve often seen marginalized in horror, and this is no exception—a lesbian doctor, the town drunk, the town drug dealer, the Muslim sheriff and his son, the unwed mother, and the parolee who killed someone in a drunk driving accident. Who survives? Leeza, the final girl, a previously wheelchair bound virgin, and her friend Warren, the nondescript white boy.
So what’s the message here? No booze, no drugs, no sex outside marriage, no LGBT, no Islam. I mean, it’s possible to read this as a condemnation of hypocrisy and exclusion. And I suppose there’s a level on which a series focused on a staunchly Catholic community is just going to get preachy, but damn.
There is some redemption to be found for those willing to bear Midnight Mass’s ponderous cross. There’s a church scene where the newly turned (i.e. “the saved”) attack their unsaved brethren and sistren. It manages a teeny little bit of a Kingsman and From Dusk Till Dawn vibe. Also satisfying is the comeuppance of the community’s judgiest, most unpleasant, easiest to hate character.
And there’s my take, beloveds. Fortunately, 7+ hours means little to a creature such as myself, so if you find yourself with a workday-sized swath of time to kill, you could admittedly do worse than Midnight Mass. You could also do oh so much better. Still. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if Mr. Flanagan wouldn’t benefit from some of my own, shall we say, tutelage? Food for thought.
Ever yours in blood,
BODIES-125 (all of Crockett Island except Leeza and Warren)