The fact that Mike Flanagan hasn’t been nominated for an Emmy is proof that the Television Academy still doesn’t take horror seriously. And if he doesn’t get a nom for Netflix’s “Midnight Mass,” it’s an indication that maybe they never will.
Starring Flanagan’s wife and frequent collaborator, Kate Siegel, alongside Hamish Linklater, Zach Gilford, Rahul Kohli and Samantha Sloyan, the seven-episode miniseries tells the story of a little town called Crockett Island and how the people who live there are affected by the blessing and curse of a new priest.
The show is an exploration of faith (through a slate of characters that slide the scale from moderate to fanatic), addiction (to more than just physical substances), forgiveness (of oneself and others) and, yes, the supernatural. It wouldn’t be a Flanagan title if it didn’t use otherworldly horror elements to study the commonplace, and in “Midnight Mass,” Flanagan shifts from the ghosts that plagued his beloved “The Haunting of Hill House” and “The Haunting of Bly Manor” series to an angel.
This heavenly creature is almost exactly as it’s described in the Bible, and that’s what Flanagan used to make it so terrifying. When read literally, and taken purely in context, an angel of the lord as seen in the Book of Revelations can be a hauntingly terrifying vampire. The blood-sucking creature gives the people of Crockett Island hope and miracles by feeding them its blood through the help of well-meaning Father Paul (Linklater), a man of faith who is not afraid of the angel and accepts its gifts despite its form – only to learn he should have been wary all along.
Unlike “Hill House,” which was based on the Shirley Jackson novel of the same name, and “Bly Manor,” which is inspired by Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw,” “Midnight Mass” is a wholly original story that has been marinating in Flanagan’s mind for years. The recovered alcoholic and altar boy-turned-atheist draws heavily from his own experiences, fears and theories for the limited series, which will hit incredibly close to home for people who have struggled with an addiction, their faith, an addiction to faith — or are knotted up in the lives of people who do.
Aside from Flanagan’s fearless writing and direction, “Midnight Mass” boasts incredible performances by Siegel and Kohli, as well as awe-inspiring visual effects.
Its September release may be what hurts “Midnight Mass” when it comes time for Emmy accolades. But there’s also the very real possibility the TV Academy — an organization that loves Ryan Murphy’s delightfully campy “American Horror Story” franchise, but little else that involves the word — would not value the title next to other limited series contenders due to its blood-fueled plot. It’s just something not all members have the stomach to watch in the first place.
Flanagan writes a monologue contemplating what happens after we die like no other and directs the holy hell out of all seven episodes, but it’s still a gory story that relies heavily on those elements to tell a deeper tale. And for that, Flanagan and his latest masterpiece might be overlooked.
Horror, and genre TV in general, have always had a hard time fitting in at the more mainstream awards ceremonies, which is why there are so many niche awards orgs giving out honors for this kind of content, several of which Flanagan has won or been nominated for. But if true-crime and scam TV series such as “Inventing Anna,” “The Staircase,” “The Dropout,” “Pam & Tommy,” “Impeachment: American Crime Story,” “Dopesick,” “A Very British Scandal,” “WeCrashed” and “Gaslit” are all in the limited series conversation for their respective portrayals of disturbing real-life events, “Midnight Mass” deserves a shot at the title for its overwhelmingly human approach to the fantastical.