Midnight Mass

Midnight Mass ★★★★

If only this one didn't disappoint in its ending, I would be singing such praises, but Mike Flanagan is still so, so good. While the majority of other directors in the horror genre feature characters who are mere faded copies or exaggerations of human beings, Flanagan shows us real people. He focuses on them, their eccentricities, their feelings, their lives so much that you truly get to know them and thanks to that you relate to them, empathize with them, root for them. There's a character here who, while drunk, shot a little girl by accident and not only do you feel sympathy for him, it happens almost instantly because Flanagan shows that person with so much empathy and focuses on his loneliness and pain.

While Ari Aster and Robert Eggers feature a tremendous amount of hysteria in their work - both in characterization and style - Flanagan relies on reality. Aster and Eggers' work is like a manic nightmare but Flanagan's is real life. Personally, I think the latter is harder to pull off - even if this wasn't a mini series, even if both The Haunting of weren't, he would still accomplish that because he has this gift of writing and casting parts in such a way that we are instantly interested in these people we are watching (the cast delivers spectacular work but I have to single out Hamish Linklater, Rahul Kohli, Robert Longstreet and Samantha Sloyan) and they never feel like constructs, they fell like actual people. Any horror story hits harder when you relate not just to the emotions depicted on the screen, but you also feel attached to the characters you are watching.

Jump scares are certainly one of the cheapest tricks in the horror genre, but Flanagan has found such a unique way to do them that I have to respect him for it. What he does, and this is precisely because his characters are so well written and performed, is that he makes you think that since you are watching a dramatic scene nothing scary is going to happen. So you are enthralled by the dialogue and thrilled with the emotions at the display and then BOOM! Jump scare! There's a great example of this in episode 3 right after Rahul Kohli's beautiful monologue about selective miracles being the proof that God doesn't work in such a way.

Another thing that is unique to Flanagan is that while truly nightmarish things happen in his work, he doesn’t rely on them to deliver a final punch, one last cruelty, the dark last note that looms over the characters and the audience. The fates of the current lady of the lake or Bent-neck lady are pure nightmares but Flanagan goes beyond the horror and explores the tragedy, the loneliness, the inner life of the character. Where other horror directors would end the story there, for him it’s an opportunity to do more. I bring that up because it’s really incredible how he has found a way to put a unique spin on things - the reveal as to what is going on with pivotal character happens in the end of episode 3. I guessed a part of it but the other part has to do with a certain plot element, even a certain exact scene, we saw countless times before. But I’ve never seen it play out like that - with the character perceiving it as something else entirely that actually makes the audience question if this truly is what we assume it to be or is the character in the right and it's something else entirely.

Unfortunately, I have to say this is by far the worst out of three mini series Flanagan has done. The previous two are nearly perfect but this one has numerous problems: it loses sight of some characters for far too long, the first part is much better than the second, there's this weird subplot with rat poison that goes nowhere and isn't explained enough and worst of all - Kate Siegel's final monologue which is so pretentious and nonsensical while clearly aiming at being profound and beautiful. It was embarrassing to witness how in the series filled with great monologues they messed up the most important one in such a horendous way. The series also never reaches the heights and surprises of Hill House and Bly Manor, but still, it's very good, profound and thought-provoking work.

The series' storyline has numerous similarities to Salem's Lot, the new adaptation of which is apparently already being filmed and is produced by James Wan. Recently, in my Malignant review, I expressed my profound sadness at Wan's cheap, gimmicky brand of horror being celebrated. Flanagan has yet to make a bad movie, yet his projects either flop in the box office or are met with truly saddening lack of love and understanding from general audience - I am still repulsed at the response to the brilliant The Haunting of Bly Manor - a beautiful, profound horror rooted in emotion and a love story. They whined about the lack of horror and the presence of monologues, revealing themselves to be many things, among them unworthy of content as high quality as Flanagan is making and completely lacking in emotional maturity required to appreciate it. James Wan is getting talked about left and right because of the latest trash he made, meanwhile Flanagan won't be talked about after the next weekend when something new is going to get released on streaming and captures the elusive attention of people.

What doesn't help is that I don't feel that Netflix has done enough to promote Midnight Mass which is almost comical since Flanagan is the ONLY director who consistently delivers great original content for them. And just like The Haunting of Bly Manor was the best thing released in 2020, Midnight Mass is easily the best release of 2021 so far.

PS1: Very tough show to watch for animal lovers. There’s a scene in the second episode that made me burst into tears.
PS2: One scene had total Saint Maud ending vibes!
PS3: Rahul Kohli is so fucking hot!

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