Anguish and religion
The American writer, director and producer Mike Flanagan has become the guru of Netflix horror series, with three consecutive products which have all received very good reviews. The Haunting of Hill House, premiered in 2018, was the story of five siblings traumatised by the events that took place in the mansion where they lived as children. A horror story, with the corresponding scares, but also a family drama with very powerful characters, both in their children and adults versions.
The Curse of Bly Manor was released in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, starring some of the main actors from the series mentioned above. In this case, the story revolves around a young American woman who accepts a nanny’s job in an English mansion, where she is soon surrounded by supernatural phenomena.
Finally, September saw the release of Midnight Mass, a more personal and ambitious project, which deals essentially with the themes of fear of death, sacrifice and religion. The scene of the terrifying events is not a mansion this time, but a whole island: Crockett Island. Although there are no references to its geographical location, all clues suggest one of the small inhabited islands off the coast of New England (in reality, the series was filmed on a set built near Vancouver, Canada).
Crockett Island is a secluded and sad place, where fishermen are losing their jobs due to an oil spill and the young people are leaving as the population ages. However, one of these young people, Riley (Zach Gilford), is heading in the opposite direction, returning to his parents’ house after four years in prison for causing a deadly accident while driving drunk in Manhattan, where he had been a successful a stockbroker. He is not welcomed by the island’s closed and suspicious Catholic community, where strange events suddenly start happening. This all coincides with another arrival, that of a foreign chaplain, Father Paul. This priest comes to replace his predecessor, old Father Pruitt, who had fallen ill during a trip to the Holy Land. Father Paul proves to be a very charismatic figure, immediately receiving attention and help from Beverly, a repellent woman who despises all those who are non-believers, especially the Muslim sheriff of the island.
While Father Paul fills the church every night with promises of eternal life, Riley, who had lost his faith, tries to reintegrate into the life of the community. He reinitiates his relationship with his former girlfriend, Erin, who, pregnant and single, has returned to the island to be a teacher. This character is played by actress Kate Siegel, Flanagan’s muse and wife in real life, and also one of the stars of his previous two TV series.
In the final episode, Erin delivers an intense monologue full of deep reflections on the meaning of life, in a plot that goes beyond traditional terror. The TV series, praised by Stephen King and Steven Spielberg, also includes shocking script twists. One of these, starring Erin and Riley, is considered one of the best (and saddest) moments of last year’s television.