Proceed with caution if you haven't watched this series, for this post is dark and full of spoilers.
Midnight Mass is a delightfully fresh, limited horror series from Netflix. The show is unsettling from the first scene, which introduces us to one of the main characters, Riley, an inhabitant of a New England island 30 miles off the coast of somewhere, named Crockett Island. His backstory stems from a fatal accident he caused while driving drunk, and from there forward as he attempts to sleep he sees the dead body of his victim, splashed with the red and blue of emergency lights. The island, serviced by two ferries and surviving on a dwindling fishing industry, is full of characters who primarily seem to exist suspended in mid-1900's values with a modern environment, albeit with limited resources. The isolation of the people is heavily played up from the start. Family, tradition and faith as the center of the home gives the characters a God-fearing endearment, all of which centers the church in the various subplots. The execution is careful and poignant between character interactions and each of their needs and wants.
As the series moves along, it's fairly early on that it divulges the audience with more information than the characters. It doesn't throw off the pacing of each episode as the climax to the actual mass occurring at midnight is building though, it provides a storyline that makes the watcher question the formal rules of the universe on Crockett Island. The rules exclude a horror monster we're all familiar with though: vampires. Even the accepted cultural rules of vampirism in media are overt in the series, but experienced by the characters in a way that's new to them, and new to humanity as a concept. This indicates a lack of that monster within their universe, their world of existence. To drink the blood of a fanged, winged creature that can't be exposed to sunlight immediately means to become one, to those of us indoctrinated with popular culture's vampire rules of decades past. But on Crockett Island, the people are unaware of their immediate danger and the priest who brings the monster to them willingly, albeit misguidedly.
Since Mr. Stoker gave us all the rules and vices for which his famous monster must exist, we've known how they operate. The community on the isolated island do not. That is what gives this story such a grounded plot inside the context of the Catholic religion. The mass the people on the island attend has been infiltrated by a vampire, their actual parish priest, Father Pruitt, returned from sabbatical to Jerusalem as a monster himself. But he understands he is not a monster, but a servant of the Lord bestowing miracles of health and healing on the community. He believed he was visited by an angel of God in the desert, and returns a healthy young man to his island parish. While he pretends for most of the episodes to be a replacement priest, the zealous school teacher and deacon, Beverly, finds out the truth through nefarious means, and tests her theory with rat poison. From there, the honest Father (Jesus) and deceiving Bev (Judas) bring the entire island, including the Muslim members of their community, into the fold of vampirism through the guise of God and a scene that rivals Game of Thrones' infamous Red Wedding.
The aversion to sunlight is just seen as one of "God's mysterious ways", not a symbol of the revulsion of God through destruction by the literal light. The rules of vampirism are twisted to fit faith instead of evil or monstrosity, and the series arcs beautifully with that realization from the characters, including the priest, Father Pruitt. The community welcomed an abomination of God to their isolated doorsteps as a symbol of faith instead of evil, and as those very doorsteps and every structure on the island burns down at the hands of their most overzealous and fervent Catholic follower, the island's newly-turned vampires realize the error of their ways. The filmography and art direction in this series is exquisite, giving the first glimpses of the vampire a special quality of secrecy. Until we know for sure, that Thing in the treeline could be any type of monster. The priest could be doing anything he can to remain healthy when he may not be, but what he's sick with, we don't know quite yet. The supernatural infiltrates the scenes subtly, and when it needs to go all out, it does so well, not campy. Until the story is fully revealed halfway through the series through flashback scenes, the audience is surmising and guessing the grim possibilities of what could be happening on the island. The play of each character keeps the audience guessing until the end.
Midnight Mass is a fantastic trip through a horror trope that takes on new life in a serene and bucolic setting, glued to Catholicism and given a journey of its own. The episodes are full of heartfelt dialogue, violence, existential introspection and a lot of blood. Favorite characters are sacrificed hard, but the foreshadowing in monologues about the afterlife are transparent early on, and many viewers will know they'll be watching particular characters become martyrs at some point. Much of the early episodes have the hallmarks of what will happen to the island community in the beginning, and the various ways the characters speak of their faith and the church give insight to how their individual roles will play out later.
The last moment of the series wraps the story in a neat bow, providing closure for the audience and a bittersweet contemplation of faith and sacrifice. Well done, again, Netflix. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Thanks for reading,