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REVIEW: ‘Midnight Mass’ combines horror with biblical themes

I am addicted to horror. As a self-proclaimed junkie, I am very well-acquainted with the works of King, Kubrick, Hitchcock, Stoker and more. You name it, I have seen it or read it. So when I heard Mike Flanagan — the creator of “The Haunting of Hill House” — released a new show, I stopped, dropped and rolled right into my bed and grabbed my laptop, ready to binge watch it.

Midnight Mass on Netflix
“Midnight Mass” on Netflix. Released Sept. 24, the show comes from creator Mike Flanagan, known for his previous horror drama series “The Haunting of Hill House.” ILLUSTRATION BY CONOR KELLEY/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Netflix released “Midnight Mass” on Sept. 24, just in time for the Halloween season.

After watching “The Haunting of Hill House” and its sister series, “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” I was already a fan of Flanagan’s work. “Midnight Mass” was no exception to his genius, especially since he worked on this passion project for over a decade.

There is just something about the tone of these three shows: The slow burn plotline, the emotionally stricken characters, the gloomy atmosphere and the startling but beautiful scares are all aspects that have developed a new genre of horror. Let’s call it the “Flanagan flare.”

“Midnight Mass” sets the scene in a sleepy bible-minded fishing town called Crockett Island, only accessible by ferry. Everybody knows everybody on Crockett Island, and if you don’t show up to church, you’re not just in trouble with God. A new, young priest named Father Paul Hill arrives as a temporary replacement for the resident reverend who is away on missionary work.

The priest is not the only fresh face on the island, though. We also meet Riley, a Crockett Island native, returning from years in prison after killing a young woman in a drunk driving accident. Riley lost his Christian faith as he faced his time and now returns to the place where his past haunts him the most.

Father Paul sparks religious fervor through his sermons and his divine ability to produce miracles. After a girl who uses a wheelchair walks freely, his workings undoubtedly convert the town to follow his word. Father Paul’s miracles come from sinister roots, though, putting a price on his bewitching gift. The town members soon become blinded by Paul’s power, failing to notice any fault in his works.

In spoiler-free terms, fans of classic horror will enjoy the twisted climax, which reveals Father Paul’s true intentions for the island. As the disturbing truth is exposed, the characters must face decisions that will change their lives for eternity.

No “Flanagan flare” is complete without a critical commentary on social structure and human nature. Faith and atheism present a dichotomy as the godly man and the sinful man arrive at Crockett Island on the same day, igniting the main conflict. The line between selfishness and selflessness allows the characters to come to terms with their inner demons amidst the actual demons who roam the Island.

Rising action in episodes one and two slowly heats up until you don’t even realize the pot is boiling over, and a shocking twist strikes at the end of episode three. By the end of the series, a central theme traces the message of a famous proverb, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

“Midnight Mass” asks its audience: how far is someone willing to go to maintain the purity of their beliefs? Pretty far, apparently, according to Flanagan. This series is not for the faint of heart nor the horror novice. It’s safe to say that this series did not wane my addiction to the genre. Keep up the good work, Netflix, because the last thing we horror junkies need is another “Hubie Halloween.”

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