Midnight Mass Reviews Are In, Here's What CinemaBlend And Other Critics Are Saying

Hamish Linklater in Midnight Mass
(Image credit: Netflix)

Nobody can get viewers into the Halloween spirit quicker than Mike Flanagan and, with his third Netflix horror series, Midnight Mass, being released on September 24, fans can’t wait to see what’s next from the creator of The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor. While Midnight Mass is not another installment of Flanagan’s previous two projects, viewers are hoping to get the same storytelling prowess and lingering imagery that those shows left with us long after viewing them.

Midnight Mass tells the story of Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford of Friday Night Lights), who returns to tiny Crockett Island, where he reunites with childhood friend Erin Greene (Kate Siegel, who is Mike Flanagan’s wife and one of many actors from his Haunting series) just as things start to get weird as it pertains to the island’s church. Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) is the new priest, leading the congregation and viewers alike into Flanagan’s dissection of Catholicism and faith. Let’s see what the critics had to say about the highly anticipated project, starting with CinemaBlend's own Sean O’Connell. O’Connell tweeted that Midnight Mass was “challenging, rewarding and brilliant,” with hints of the master of horror Stephen King:

Another feast from Mike Flanagan, who is such a master at characterization, atmosphere, and contemplative horror. I grew up Catholic, but was raised on Stephen King, so this is VERY MUCH my shit. I described Midnight Mass as ‘Stephen King’s Jaws, except the shark is God.’ So yeah, Mike Flanagan has another masterpiece on the way. Binge it immediately.

The Verge called the series “a nesting doll of stories” and, while the monologues got to be a bit much, the performances were so great that the viewer will stay sucked in as the show descends into pure, unadulterated horror. It sounds like fans may want to brace themselves:

As much as I wanted to see what happened next, I couldn’t help but get pulled into long, drawn-out speeches about death and the meaning of life. These moments also help set the tone. So much of the show is quiet and thoughtful, which makes the dark moments hit really hard.And there are some very dark moments. In its first few episodes, Midnight Mass feels a lot like the Haunting shows. There aren’t really jump scares or bloody kills. It’s the kind of horror that you watch through your fingers anticipating something terrible happening … only it rarely does. Eventually the show lets loose in a big, bloody way. It’s gradual — a few deaths here, some horrifying revelations there — but by the end Midnight Mass descends into full-blown horror. Like, we’re-on-the-run-because-we’re-all-gonna-die kind of horror. Gruesome-killfest-that-will-keep-you-up-at-night kind of horror.

Variety argued that some of the things that worked for Mike Flanagan on his two previous Netflix series were ultimately what hurt Midnight Mass. Where the characters’ backstories contributed to understanding the family’s issues in The Haunting of Hill House, this review said the Midnight Mass ending felt cluttered, with the stories getting in the way of what Flanagan was trying to explore:

Flanagan’s third limited series for Netflix, taking Catholicism as its subject, lacks the crispness and rigor that has often distinguished his work. And though it engages with potent ideas, the ultimate impact of Midnight Mass is softened by a lack of follow-through. It’s a very talky show that struggles, in dialogue, to answer the questions it poses.

Time agreed that Midnight Mass might not be able to answer all of the big-picture questions it posed, but this review thought the formula worked, with Mike Flanagan allowing audiences to answer the questions for themselves while he focused on entertaining. And rare in today’s world, Time argued, Flanagan was able to drudge up those existential questions for its audiences through his characters’ development, and somehow without being preachy:

Flanagan is more concerned with entertaining—and in creating a distinctive, vivid social world on Crockett Island—than he is in blowing minds with the complexity of his narrative or the obscurity of his ideas. But neither does he oversimplify big questions surrounding faith, science, morality and mortality. With so many TV series these days delivering unasked-for lectures on how to be a person in the world, it’s refreshing that this one is content to surface issues and let the audience work through them organically. For all its clumsy monologuing, and despite a few side plots that feel like a stretch, the show mostly avoids pretense through grounded storytelling and coherent characters that gain depth and nuance with each episode.

Collider gave Midnight Mass an “A-“ saying all of the characters felt lived in and every performance rang true. While the series had its “laborious” moments, and audiences will have to get past some “truly ill-advised old age makeup,” this review begged audiences to dive in anyway and try to take your time with it:

As Father Paul, [Hamish] Linklater is the show's driving force and its most vital presence; in lesser hands, a role this devoted to scripture could be a turn-off, but Linklater demands your attention, even in quiet moments, proving the show's point about the razor-thin line between salvation and seduction. Kate Siegel, playing a Crockett Island native who also left home only to return with memories she regrets and a pregnancy she does not, is trusted with selling this show's most flowery diversions; she has this wonderful way of making it look like the most complex material is something she just thought of, in that moment, and it's a surprise to even herself. Truly, this review could have just been a list of cast members' names followed by several exclamation points. It's a show made up of Emmy reels.

The reviews all seemed to agree that while the monologues were plenty, the actors pulled them off in a way that audiences won’t lose interest — and that slow build ultimately contributed to the horrifying ending. I, for one, can’t wait to check it out for myself. Midnight Mass can be streamed on Netflix starting Friday, September 24. Be sure to browse these other Netflix options that are being released this month, as well as our 2021 Fall TV Schedule to keep track of all the upcoming small screen premiere dates.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.