Students of the genre will look to other derivational elements—the 1979 remake of “Nosferatu” comes to mind—in this macabre and cerebral tale that delves deeper into the relationship between religion and vampirism, the rising-from-the-post-dead, Blood-drinking aspects.
Set on remote Crockett Island, the plot hinges on the return of Riley (“Friday Night Lights'” Zach Guilford), a young man trying to get his life back after serving time for a fatal car accident; and Father Paul (Hamish Linklater), a mysterious priest who arrives to replace the elderly pastor who had long served the community.
Riley is reunited with a high-school crush, Erin (Kate Siegel, after the “Hunting” series, is reunited with her husband, Flanagan), discussing how their lives go according to plan. Didn’t go Soon, strange and seemingly supernatural events begin to occur, talk of miracles and religious fervor ensues, although the origins of those acts – and Father Paul’s relationship with them – may be far more sinister.
The first few episodes spin around with no sense of urgency (most episodes run over an hour), sprinkling enough clues to indicate that something wicked comes along this way.
When the explanations do finally emerge, they are not entirely satisfied, although they do provoke some serious conversations about biblical interpretation and unexpected reactions within Paul’s flock. There’s also an interesting, somewhat underdeveloped subplot about the Muslim Sheriff (Rahul Kohli) and how he and his son fit into the role of the church.
Enthused by a cast including Henry Thomas and Annabeth Gish, what sets “Midnight Mass” apart perhaps more than anything else is the nature of his ideas and the extent to which Flanagan considers them while working with explicitly horror conventions. Wants to do, trying to engage the audience in an unexpectedly layered fashion.
The climax, however, is more perplexing than the bustle, proving chaotic in a way that ultimately doesn’t matter much. It doesn’t necessarily undermine the more interesting aspects, but as it closes the books, “Midnight Mass” triggers a lot of soul-searching as to whether it was worth the time investment.
In that sense, Flanagan’s visit to church certainly works in mysterious ways, but not entirely satisfying.
“Midnight Mass” premieres on Netflix on September 24.