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FRIDAY MATINEE: Midnight Mass (🍺🍺🍺🍺)

I held off writing this review until I had seen all seven episodes of the new Netflix limited series “Midnight Mass.” I’ve been burned in the past by shows that start out well and then devolve into silliness as they progress. While “Mass" doesn’t completely stick the landing, I think even the East German judge would give it a solid 9. Taken as a whole, I think it is as effective a piece of horror as the combined “It” movies from a few years ago, and right on par with “Hereditary” and “Midsommar.” 

The story revolves around a man returning to his childhood island home after a prison stay for a drunk driving accident that killed a teen girl. Coincidentally, it is the same day the island’s beloved elderly priest, Monsignor Pruitt is supposed to return from a trip to the Holy Land. Unfortunately, the priest has taken ill and is being treated on the mainland. A temporary priest arrives to take his place. 

The story takes a little while to get going, and anyone who’s familiar with the genre will figure out some of the intrigues long before the islanders do, but the slow-burn plotting is more than made up for with spectacular cinematography and attention to detail. The director, Mike Flanagan, was raised Catholic and was an altar boy, and it shows. There is a short throw-away scene in which an altar boy discusses the Monsignor's failing mental state and how it relates to ringing the bells during communion. That’s some inside knowledge. Often, in horror movies, the Catholic faith is used as a cheap plot device; here it is the plot. 

Going to get into some SPOILERS now, so stop here and go watch it if you don’t want to know any more.

It turns out that the elder priest got lost from his tour group on the road to Damascus, and wandered into an old cave/temple where he encountered an “angel” that miraculously restored his health and youth. How the “angel” did this, however, as well as its general appearance and behavior will be very familiar to fans of horror. Apparently, the well-read Monsignor Pruitt skipped over the Bram Stoker collection.

Believing he needed to share his miracle with his congregation on the island, he smuggles the "angel" back home and begins secretly mixing its blood with the communion wine. The parishioners begin experiencing their own health miracles, but as you might expect, things eventually go off the rails, and the Easter Vigil Midnight Mass, necessitated by the fact the priest can no longer go out in the sunlight without burning up, becomes a spectacular bloodbath. Throughout all this, there are surprisingly long meditations on the nature of life, death, addiction, faith, and religion. The town doctor, who represents science and logic keeps trying to figure out a non-supernatural explanation for what is going on, but she finally admits she just doesn’t know. 

And that’s where Flanagan misfires just slightly. Toward the end, one of the key characters gives what I’ll call the “billion-year-old carbon” explanation of life after death. It tries to walk a line between secular and spiritual. Yet, in the meantime, vampires are spontaneously combusting around her, and she’s just seen people drink rat poison and then come back to life. It’s as if a character on The Walking Dead dismissed vampires as ridiculous. 

All good horror has existential and spiritual overtones, but it gets tricky when you bring those to the forefront and attempt to question the validity of believing in the supernatural while you are immersed in a supernatural storyline.

That aside, Midnight Mass is a very spooky, very scary, and even somewhat thought-provoking show.  

🍺🍺🍺🍺

I was originally a Radio/Television Communication major at Ohio University before switching to Business Administration. One of the core RTVC classes was "Interpretation of Film," which I took Fall Quarter of my sophomore year. It remains my favorite class of all time. Every Friday at 2:00, we would gather in the theater at Baker Center and watch a classic movie, then discuss it on Monday and Wednesday of the next week. A few of us from the class would go out for a beer or two before the screening and that became known as our "Friday Matinee." Fittingly, I award movies mugs of beer as follows:

🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺 -  A modern classic. Entertaining, with no significant flaws.

🍺🍺🍺🍺 - A great viewing experience, with just a few minor issues.

🍺🍺🍺 - Well worth watching, but some significant quibbles.

🍺🍺 - Watchable, but not worth your time unless a fan of the director, actors, or source material.

🍺- Save your money.

Comments

  1. I watched it, also. Did you notice how Riley and Erin flip-flop their views of the afterlife--Riley, the pragmatist, is taken up to Heaven by an angel and Erin, the religious one, contemplates all of nature as she lies dying? It figures that everyone who drank the blood, whether in the "blood bath" or innocently from the communion cup, is killed by the sunrise --except the two kids -- who also drank of the blood (which enables Leeza to walk again). Why are they spared? Oh, and the sheriff, I guess he died of his gunshot wounds so he was the only one who didn't burn up. A few plot holes but all in all a good series. At least it kept me riveted.

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  2. the kids did not burn up because they never died and turned. once they died ( first time) the vampire blood took over.

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