Perils of blind faith: Rapidly multiplying miracles accompanied by horrifying events in 'Midnight Mass' - Albuquerque Journal

Perils of blind faith: Rapidly multiplying miracles accompanied by horrifying events in ‘Midnight Mass’

Zach Gilford as Riley Flynn in “Midnight Mass.” (Eike Schroter/Netflix)

A young woman is pregnant, and all seems well with the baby, until she has an exam and the sonogram reveals … nothing. The fetus has simply disappeared.

An elderly woman is in the last stages of dementia and is incapable of taking care of herself or even recognizing her daughter – until the day she wakes up and seems perfectly fine, and then begins “reverse aging,” a la Benjamin Button.

A teenage girl has been paralyzed from the waist down since she was shot in a hunting accident – but now, all of a sudden, she can walk.

And what’s with the new priest in town who seems strangely familiar?

It’s not surprising that none other than Stephen King took to Twitter last week to sing the praises of the Netflix original limited series “Midnight Mass,” because this is a memorably dark and gory and twisted saga from horror specialist Mike Flanagan, director of films such as “Absentia” and “Gerald’s Game” (based on a novel by King) and the Netflix series “The Haunting of Hill House.” Even though it’s an original work from Flanagan, it feels like a high-level adaptation of a particularly haunting King novel.

In a steady, intense, labyrinthine build over the course of seven episodes, Flanagan takes us on a chilling journey dripping with biblical allegories, taking a deep and bloody dive into themes of good vs. evil and the wide expanse of gray in between; angels and demons and how it’s not always easy to distinguish between the two, and how unwavering, rigid, dogmatic faith and spirituality can result in salvation for some and eternal damnation for others.

You don’t have to have been raised Catholic to appreciate “Midnight Mass,” but for those of us who were, the series maintains an uncanny and pinpoint accuracy for the hymns, the prayers, the rituals, the sermons, the vestments and the very essence of a church and the surrounding community – in this case, St. Patrick’s on Crockett Island, a remote outpost with just over 100 residents. When the main storyline begins, Zach Gilford’s Riley Flynn, a former altar boy at the church, has just returned home after serving four years in an Illinois prison for a DUI that resulted in the death of a teenage girl, a girl who often appears to Riley in his dreams. Riley’s return coincides with the arrival of Father Paul (Hamish Linklater), a charismatic young priest who tells the townsfolk their longtime pastor has taken ill and is recuperating on the mainland. Father Paul quickly wins over the church regulars with his fiery, passionate sermons – and when he presides over a miracle right there in the middle of a Mass, suddenly the church pews are overflowing with virtually every resident of the island.

Kristin Lehman as Annie Flynn and Igby Rigney as Warren Flynn in “Midnight Mass.” (Eike Schroter/Netflix)

Ah, but strange things are brewing on Crockett Island. A violent storm hits – and Riley swears he saw the old priest walking in the pouring rain. Dozens of dead cats wash up on the beach. The town doctor (Annabeth Gish) sees tubes of blood samples literally boil and explode in the sunlight. (Trust me, these are relatively minor incidents, as I don’t want to spoil the major, sometimes stunning, often horrific developments.) The cinematography perfectly captures the bleakness of this dilapidated fishing town, which took a financial pummeling after an oil spill contaminated the local waters. Even when it’s not raining on Crockett Island, it always looks like a hell storm is about to engulf the entire place.

And yet … these miracles. The old woman who seems to be getting younger, the paralyzed girl who can walk, a man who appears to be dead but then is resurrected, like Lazarus or even Jesus Christ himself. Something magical is happening here, but as the supernatural occurrences multiply, it feels like something more akin to a zombie movie than a glorious version of the Rapture.

In addition to standouts Gilford, Linklater and Gish, the terrific ensemble cast includes Rahul Kohli as the sheriff, a Muslim who is treated with suspicion by many locals; Kate Siegel as Erin, who has returned to the island after a stint on the mainland and still has feelings for Riley and is hoping to rekindle her faith in God; Henry Thomas and Kristin Lehman as Riley’s parents, and Samantha Sloyan as Bev, who helps run the church and takes pious villainy to the next level. “Midnight Mass” isn’t an indictment of organized religion; it’s a parable about the dangers of blind faith and being careful what you wish for. Crockett Island is no place for the meek, for they will not inherit this slice of Earth.


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