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Midnight Mass

Crockett Island, 127 souls: a fishing island 50 miles away from the mainland. Riley Flynn Zach Milford returns there, after four years in prison: welcomed by his parents and brother, he is a lost soul who has fallen from grace within the Catholic community of the island, a community whose faith has been severely damaged. tested by the economic crisis that forced many inhabitants to emigrate to the mainland.

On the same day, Father Hill Hamish Link later arrives, a young priest called to replace the elderly Monsignor Pruitt, who has gone on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Hill is a clergyman who is passionate and attentive to every member of the community, and soon the village church becomes full of faithful again. A faith that invigorates visibly when miraculous healing and inexplicable events begin to occur, all attributable to Father Hill and his profound faith. And in fact, faith is involved, but nothing is as it seems: the men and women of Crockett Island are victims of an angel of death, and of their own religious fanaticism, which will drag them into collective madness.

Mike Flanagan must now be accepted for what he is, without reservations. Take or leave. Each time, after weighing the pros and cons, you always find yourself at the same point. After the unmemorable cinematic debuts Oculus and Ouija, Flanagan fearlessly faced his tutelary deity, Stephen King, the author most and wors  transposed to the cinema: not bad Gerald’s Game for Netflix, completely useless Doctor Sleep  but the original novel, eloquent nadir of the last twenty years of King’s career, did not help him, to tell the truth

Back on Netflix, and eager to show everyone how scary he was, he seriously risked rewriting the history of the horror genre with a miniseries, The Haunting of Hill House, practically perfect and terrifying until the seventh episode, only to collapse. miserably on a drama turgical and thematic level. The second season, Bly Manor, inspired by Henry James  no less is instead more lyrical and less horrifying; Flanagan is less involved he writes and directs only the pilot but the series works, it grows and conquers the public, despite the same defects of Hill House that we will also regularly find in his new creation, Midnight Mass.
Before dwelling on the latter, the same premises must always be reiterated: Flanagan has always been a verbose, prolix director, totally devoid of the gift of synthesis. He is able to repeat the obvious and the already said  or suggested previously, with soporific spoken scenes and generalist fictional explanations; he possesses considerable technical expertise and is capable of filming dizzying sequence shots, but his narrative is too coarse to rise to authorial status.That said, nothing of the above prevents Midnight Mass from running as one of the best series of the year  because when you least expect it, Flanagan knows how to pull the strings, give moments of great emotional strength, authentically moving, and unlike Hill House to thematically bring to fulfillment his long parable in seven chapters, ambiguously eloquent and profane: Genesis, Psalms, Proverbs, Lamentations, Gospel, Acts of the Apostles and Revelation.

We talk about religion, in Midnight Mass. And we often ask ourselves, through the loss of the characters, about its real meaning, which transcends being believers the unfortunate Erin Green, played by Flanagan’s muse and wife, Kate Siege or atheists the outcast Riley, who despite not believing will be able to make an extreme sacrifice of himself. We talk about the natural bewilderment of the human being, and his need to believe in something in order to move forward. But also of the immense danger of faith, if challenged and read in the wrong way to spread the misrepresented verb, for Flanagan, means to infect, literally spread a disease, like vampires thirsty for other people blood.

Or it can lead to the apocalypse of internal implosion, like certain sects that destroy themselves and lead to mass suicide. It is impossible not to think of Jone stown Heaven Gate while witnessing Midnight Mass, two tragedies similar in modality, with a leader able to consciously drag his followers to death in the name of resurrection. A leader who surprisingly is not Father Paul, the cause of the tragedy but too humanto take it to its extreme consequences, but an improvised minister of God who perfectly embodies that fundamentalist bigotry present in so many of King’s novels

Among so many ambiguous characters, reluctant to reveal themselves and who evolve within studied twists, it is Samantha Sloyan Beverly Keane who remains coherently archetypically evil from beginning to end: her wickedness is the consequence of replacing God and act in his image and likeness. In a wisely controlled crescendo, which leads to an ending that reaches straight to the heart, what makes this vision special, to the point of making it unforgettable? Something that in a genre product, and especially of the horror genre, one would hardly expect to find: a pietas that distinguishes the characters, able to empathize with those on the other side of the fence because, net of the conflict that divides them , they are people who have known each other for a lifetime. In practice, what happened in a very different context in The night of San Lorenzo dei Taviani brothers and friends divided in war, here a war of religion, not too metaphorically announced by Father Paul.

Sometimes witnessing miracles is possible. In the sense that Flanagan, as mentioned, remains and will always remain Flanagan: an incorrigible talented tamarack. But being able to pack a product of excellent quality, capable of frightening, moving and making people think, often making fun of the threshold of disbelief when not ridicule the angel arrived in Crockett Island in a suitcase, in defiance of any customs, for di more present in the church with a lot of cassock  it is truly miraculous. Yet skepticism does not pay: you have to make yourself St. Thomas, and see to believe.

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