‘Midnight Mass’ tells beautifully dark tale among haunting island

Noah Levine, Life and Arts Film Columnist

“Midnight Mass,” the newest horror experience from acclaimed director Mike Flanagan (“Doctor Sleep,” “Gerald’s Game,” “The Haunting of Hill House”), follows an isolated island community that experiences a series of strange miracles when a mysterious priest arrives. Throughout its seven-episode run, the residents slowly uncover a dark and twisted secret.

The introduction to the strange Crockett Island comes through the perspective of protagonist Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford), who returns to his family home after serving a sentence in jail for a drunken driving accident. Plagued by haunting visions of the woman he killed in the incident, Flynn sees police lights forever flickering on the ghostly corpse’s face. As he struggles to reacclimate to life, the mysterious Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) takes charge of church services alongside the malicious Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan). While Flynn struggles to deal with his past, Crockett Island finds renewed faith in the church after Father Paul seemingly brings a miracle to one of the town’s residents. 

Flanagan’s signature directing and visual style remains present throughout the series. The gloomy coast of Crockett Island contrasts hauntingly with the flat lighting within the island’s church. Surrounding the island with forests and water isolates the small community, emphasizing hopelessness and terror as the narrative unfolds. An eerie score from composing duo The Newton Brothers subtly elevates the horror moments in a nightmarish fashion. 

Exploring the dangers of faith, mob mentality and even death itself, the show uses its characters’ conflicting ideologies to debate the troubles of reality through a fictional veil. Combined with his signature horror spin, Flanagan dishes out the series’ thematic messages with a beautiful darkness. 

In terms of faults, Flanagan’s slow burn storytelling occasionally feels frustrating. Repeated sequences featuring religious services certainly enrich the ambience of the world yet they tend to run too long. Flynn provides an intriguing perspective yet at times his character feels less interesting in comparison with some of the more fascinating personalities of the cast. 

Of all of its successes, “Midnight Mass’s” incredible ensemble cast shines brightest. Each character’s performance feels rich with authenticity. Linklater plays the troubled and eccentric Father Paul hauntingly, Rahul Kohli brings a touching softness to his portrayal of Sheriff Hassan and Gilford infuses a troubled vulnerability in his portrayal of Flynn. 

“Midnight Mass” adds another beautifully twisted horror tale to Mike Flanagan’s already impressive filmography. 

4 Miracles out of 5