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Midnight Mass / Mike Flanagan thread

Started by QDRPHNC, November 25, 2021, 05:40:55 PM

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So, Midnight Mass then. Mike Flanagan's third horror series (sorry, Netflix Original Series). I have a lot of thoughts on this, as someone who enjoys the odd musing on God and faith and such, who grew up Catholic, went to communion, confession, all the rest of it and as someone who enjoyed The Haunting of Hill House and, to a lesser extent, The Haunting of Bly Manor.

Full disclosure: Aside from these three shows, I have not seen anything else Mike Flanagan has done. As enjoyable as I've found them overall, there are elements of all three - consistent elements - which deter me from delving deeper into his filmography. I'll talk about that later.


Things I liked about Midnight Mass:

Overall, the setting and atmosphere was very well done.

Hamish Linklater as Father Hill / Monsignor Pruitt. A well-written, complex, fleshed-out character. Portrayed by Linklater with this interesting, awkward energy. Humble, sincere, insecure, occasionally threatening and powerful, and at times weak-willed and easily led. Without this actor in this role, there would be no reason to watch this show, in my opinion.

There were other good performances too. Henry Thomas didn't get much to do, but did it well, and I have a lot of residual goodwill for him from his performance in Hill House. Samantha Sloyan did a great job with some limited material. Rahul Kohli was good too. For me, he was the stand-out performance in Bly Manor, and here he felt like a dependable rock for the audience to anchor itself to.

The midnight mass in the final episode was really, really well done. Great horror filmmaking.

Overall, I thought it maintained a nice tense ambiguity throughout, meaning that strange things were happening, various people had their interpretations, but we were never spoon-fed the answers. At least not until the last episode. But up until that point, the ambiguity itself raised some interesting questions about the nature of God manifesting in the world, and who should be fit to judge it.

To keep with that thought as we move into the bad things.

It wouldn't let us hold onto that ambiguity, at the end there was not much to ponder after the credits rolled. Ironically, we are given absolute certainty about who the goodies and baddies are, and in Midnight Mass's world, the baddies are those with absolute certainty.

Zach Gilford as Riley Flynn. A charisma vacuum. I don't even have anything to say about the character or the performance.

The fucking monologues. Mostly I was just waiting for them to end. If you're going to ruminate on God and the afterlife and meaning (and these are all fine things to ruminate on), at least have something interesting to say. The centrepiece of the show, Riley and Erin discussing what happens after you die, was just sentimental, saccharine shit. Neither one of them said anything unexpected, anything that made you consider things different. Just pretty much what you would expect their characters to say, except they took 20 minutes to say it.

The sheriff's monologue!
"Sheriff, something really bad is happening, I need your help immediately aw jeez!"
"... Did I ever tell you why I became a cop?"
The whole episode ground to a halt. All anticipation and tension evaporated. I'm sure Mike Flanagan loved writing them, and I'm sure the actors loved saying them, but they didn't serve the show very well.

And Erin's final monologue! Fuck me, it just wouldn't end. This Gervais-level "I see god in like... plants and grass and that, yeah?" And thematically, I'm not even sure where it fit. I suppose as a kind of scientific mysticism to counter the spiritual mysticism of the church, but was that really the most powerful and meaningful thing in that moment? I don't know. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

The last big negative I have is not just one thing, it's a combination of things. This is the point at which I almost threw in the towel on the show. The last scene in episode 5, when Riley takes Erin out on the boat to prove to her the truth of what he's saying.

I can't explain why I hated this scene so much without getting into this issue I have with Mike Flanagan in general. And in fact it's exactly the same issue I have with M. Night Shyamalan. But I can't quite articulate it, and yet I get a strong sense of it from their work. I was going to call it an indefinable naffness, but I know that won't do.. To get more specific, I would have to say that it feels like immaturity. That's the best word I have for it. Because all too often, this well-written, well-acted, well-produced show seems far too interested in

Often to the detriment of the story, and the reality of the world he's building.

The dead girl with the glass in her face with the police lights reflected in it?

And so this scene, the one that ends episode 5, not only doesn't make any sense at all. But it's done with such a self-satisfied smugness, that it's so profound we don't even end on music, but Erin's screams are allowed to continue over the credits because

Bear with me.

Riley and Erin have known each other since childhood. So Riley is aware that Erin's whole life has been defined by trauma. Just that week, she had lost her baby. So she is not only living with her past trauma, but is literally in the middle of one of the most traumatic experiences a person could go through. So knowing that, Riley's big plan is to get her in very close proximity, in a spot she can't escape from, so she can watch the person she just professed her love to explode to death right in front of her. Does that make sense? No! Of course it doesn't, but

Never mind the fact that there were already miracles publicly occurring and so Erin may have been receptive to a fantastical explanation given over a lovely pot of tea. You know - LIKE SHE WAS LATER WHEN THE DOCTOR EXPLAINED IT TO HER.

Those kinds of plot holes are all over the place. Same thing after we sat through the sheriff telling us why he became a cop and 9/11 for half an hour, the doctor could have said, "Well... I think you should investigate regardless because my mother, who you know well, is now younger than me. I can have her here in literally five minutes if you like."

Alright, I'm worn out with typing now. There are many more things that could be talked about, good and bad. And overall, there is more good here than bad. Unlike Bly Manor, I may revisit it again in the future. Midnight Mass. Discuss.

Mister Six

Mister Six

(Sorry, couldn't resist. I'll try to write more later, but I like most of what you hate, even the speeches, so it might just be a horses for courses situation.)


That's fair. It's more fun to write the negative stuff, but there really is a lot about it I admired a great deal.


I enjoyed it but thought it could have been a couple of episodes shorter and wanted to smash my tv to bits when they all started singing that hymn at the end. Not hated anyone as much as that Bev Keane for a while.


Much like Mister Six, I liked the cool shots and the monologues. (TBF, I've been turning my brain to mush watching the various Walking Dead spin-offs so anything reasonably well-written comes across like Proust at the moment.) They struck me as more natural than the speechifying of The Leftovers, which - even though I enjoyed overall - felt a bit of a chore at times.

I thought Erin's screams over the credits were quite chilling, and the vigil at the end had that genuinely horrifying sense of inescapable inevitability that I've only experienced in a couple of films (Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Wicker Man come to mind, the isolation of the latter also resonating heavily).

Maybe I'm giving him too much credit, but I thought yon Riley actor did a great job of portraying someone that had been hollowed out by life (and his own choices) to the point that even redemption and resurrection was just another form of unwelcome self-help guilt assuagement. Hamish Linklater was fantastic as the monsignor (although the cynical, annoying part of my brain kept shouting 'Nick Cave's groovy uncle' at me at inopportune moments).

I liked the idea of unchecked religious fervour being a contagion, too.

The only other Flanagan thing I've seen is Gerald's Game, which I thought pretty great up to a point. Is Hill House worth a watch then?


Standard Netflix show which breaks through, fun in places but it could have been done in a few less episodes.

A major issue for me was the main villain was so incredibly boring and one dimensional.

Maybe that I made the mistake of watching The Mist a few weeks ago where the lead villain was similar type character but so much scarier mainly due to actress which did not help things.

Mister Six

Rdj2, are you talking about the villain of Midnight Mass, or Hill House? If the former, do you mean the Monsignor, Bev or the big fuck-off vampire thing?

I don't see how anyone could see the Monsignor as one-dimensional, and the vampire is a plot device more than a character, so... Bev? I didn't think she was one-dimensional, but I guess she was one-note. I have met people almost exactly like that, though. Maybe a glimpse at what made her the horrid person she is might have helped. But then it would have been even longer (I had no problems with the length, mind).

I genuinely think my only major criticism of Midnight Mass is that Kohli's accent kept slipping. On reflection, something to humanise Bev would have been appreciated, and the moment we got the Monsignor's Israel origin flashback, a lot of what followed seemed obvious and inevitable, although Flanagan played into that with the rising tension of the mass. But I loved it.

Quote from: kngen on November 26, 2021, 06:16:44 PMThe only other Flanagan thing I've seen is Gerald's Game, which I thought pretty great up to a point. Is Hill House worth a watch then?

I've seen a few Flanagan things and liked them all to some degree, but Midnight Mass is way better than all of them, I think.

Hill House is good fun and more spooky/jump-scary, if that's what you're looking for. The ending is kind of gibberish, though. Still fun, mind.

The follow-up (most of the same cast, different characters/story), Bly Manor, is a step up from Hill House, sticks the landing and feels more cohesive, although like Hill House it depends a lot on mystery, so once it becomes clear what's happening a couple of episodes from the end, it loses a lot of momentum. It also could definitely have done with losing an episode or two (fuck off, alcoholic uncle).

His films Doctor Sleep and Hush are decent, too.


Haha, I'm the opposite there too. Hill House didn't stick the landing, but I didn't think Bly Manor stuck any of it. I don't think I could even tell you what it was about or describe a particular scene that stuck out to me.

Mister Six

It was about

Spoiler alert
coping with dementia (of your own or others), the toll that our past regrets take on our present selves, and what it was like to live in the single most multiracial English village of the 1980s

I could list a bunch of scenes that stuck with me, especially the ending -

Spoiler alert
(not least because it left Mrs Six in floods of tears)

- but that would be boring. Horses for courses and all that.

Oh, and Kohli was more interesting to me in Bly Manor, not just because his accent was more natural, but

Spoiler alert
because he's just playing a lovely, friendly, uncomplicated, likeable bloke who's a solidly good guy, which is such a rare thing to see these days in dramas, especially when they're from the US, and especially especially when they're horror-themed. The haunted sheriff, on the other hand, felt much more like the sort of thing I expect to see in a contemporary adult drama.

Man, I can't wait till we get "proper" spoiler text back.


Quote from: Mister Six on November 26, 2021, 07:25:39 PMHis films Doctor Sleep and Hush are decent, too.

I'm intrigued by Doctor Sleep, so I might give that a spin. Ta!

To use the German word (that I just made up), erschreckenlangweilig, I find jump scares both boring and too bloody unsettling at the same time. Will prob give Hill House a miss then.


Mister Six

Bly Manor mostly goes for "spooky thing moving or glimpsed in background" rather than jump-scares, if it helps.

I'm also concerned I might be overstating the jump-scariness of Hill House. Can someone who's seen it recently confirm/deny? I'd hate for someone to miss out on something they'd enjoy because I misremembered it.


Quote from: Mister Six on November 26, 2021, 07:25:39 PMRdj2, are you talking about the villain of Midnight Mass, or Hill House? If the former, do you mean the Monsignor, Bev or the big fuck-off vampire thing?

Bev for me was a bit one note. I dunno I suppose its tough to put a new spin on Bible Bashing female type villain.

I will say Friday Nights Light actor who played Riley was actually pretty good. He's not exactly Brando, but he definitely brought a lot of vulnerability to the role.

Mister Six

Yeah, I thought he did grand in the role. He didn't have a lot of room to manoeuvre, as the character has limited opportunities for growth and expression given his circumstances, but he did great with what he had.