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SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains massive spoilers for Midnight Mass. If you have not yet watched all of the Netflix series, proceed at your own risk!
The new Netflix miniseries Midnight Mass is an original creation from the mind of writer/director Mike Flanagan, but there is also no denying the extreme Stephen King vibes that it gives off. It’s not exactly surprising when you consider that Flanagan has made two of the best King movies in recent memory – Gerald’s Game and Doctor Sleep – but that makes it no less wonderful to recognize the legendary author’s influence on the show’s setting, characters, and story. It’s not just a cool thing to pick up on for those who consider themselves Constant Readers, but it could also be an unconventional-albeit-great starting place for those who are looking for a way into the King canon.
It’s in consideration of the latter that I’ve put together this guide. Though it may not necessarily be purposeful in all cases, there are certain elements of Midnight Mass that tie back to some key Stephen King books, and those who enjoyed those elements of the Netflix miniseries may be interested in some further reading and exploration of themes/ideas. If that sounds like something that you might personally be interested in, dig into the six titles below!
Stories about city life, farm life, and suburban life are everywhere in pop culture, but few and far between are stories about island communities. Midnight Mass is an excellent one, as the isolation of Crockett Island in the miniseries creates a wonderful bubble in which the characters exist separate from the rest of the world – and it’s wonderfully reminiscent of Stephen King’s brilliant 1992 novel Dolores Claiborne, which is set on the fictional Little Tall Island off the coast of Maine. The actual narratives of the two works are totally different, as the book centers on a woman as she confesses to one murder and works to absolve herself of another, but both works are heavily impacted by the close-knit nature of their respective settings.
Bonus: it’s not a book, but the Stephen King miniseries Storm Of The Century is also set on Little Tall Island, and 20 years after its original airing it remains one of the best King’s most underappreciated works.
In 2020, there were reports that Mike Flanagan was developing an adaptation of Stephen King’s 2014 novel Revival. Sadly, that project ended up falling apart, but it’s hard not to wonder if his work on the would-be film ended up influencing the creation of Midnight Mass. Like the Netflix miniseries, the book also begins with the arrival of a mysterious religious figure in a small town, and it charts how the man comes in and out of the life of the life of the story’s protagonist, providing devastating consequences each time. The book provides readers with one of the darkest most twisted conclusions that has ever come out of King’s brain, so be prepared. (Fun fact: Henry Thomas' Ed Flynn can be seen reading Revival a couple times in the series).
One can’t help but notice that the word “vampire” is never actually uttered throughout all seven episodes of Midnight Mass. At the same time, there is no denying that’s the monster at play in the story (as revealed in Episode 3), and with Stephen King on the brain one can’t help but be reminded of what was the second novel the author got published: Salem’s Lot. In the beloved book from 1975, the town of Jerusalem’s Lot, Maine is set upon by an ancient vampire by the name of Kurt Barlow, and as more and more locals get drained and turned into monsters, it becomes the responsibility of a writer named Ben Mears and some close associates to try and stop the evil spreading before it is too late.
To be perfectly honest, Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers is not typically a book that I would recommend to anybody, as it’s very far from being an example of the author’s best work, but I do feel compelled to include it in this feature because I couldn’t help but recognize its reflection in Midnight Mass. One way in which the Netflix miniseries differs from Salem’s Lot is in the fact that the people of Crockett Island are revived and made healthier thanks to the spreading vampire influence, rather than becoming weak and anemic. This is similar to the events that transpire in The Tommyknockers, which is a book that sees an entire town become energized with big ideas following the unearthing of an alien spaceship in the ground. Of course, this extraterrestrial power winds up being far more detrimental than positive, and the same could be said of the “Angel’s” presence in the Mike Flanagan show.
It’s always fun when a piece of pop culture introduces a character so hateful that you want to hiss every time they make an appearance, and that’s a wonderful achievement of Midnight Mass with the creation of Samantha Sloyan's Bev Keane. Her horrible presence over the course of the show serves to not only heighten the tension in the story, but also drive home the greater themes about faith, forgiveness, and acceptance. She is also greatly reminiscent of Mrs. Carmody, who Stephen King fans will remember as the main human antagonist in the novella “The Mist.” Like with Bev Keane, Carmody has a knack for wielding the words of God as a tool and as a weapon, and the influence that she has the ability to garner winds up being just as dangerous as the monsters that are lurking in a dense fog that overtakes the sleepy lake town of Bridgton, Maine.
If you’re a fan of both Mike Flanagan and Stephen King, there’s probably a fairly good chance that you’ve already checked out Doctor Sleep thanks to Flanagan’s aforementioned adaptation – but if you haven’t, doing so after Midnight Mass is advisable. The big connection is primarily through Zach Gilford’s Riley Flynn, who has a few key things in common with King protagonist Dan Torrance: both characters are recovering alcoholics doing their best to conquer demons from their past who haunt them every day. Their journeys certainly differ from that starting place, but there is a kind of bond in their origins.
All seven episodes of Netflix’s Midnight Mass are now streaming on Netflix, and if you’re now excited about the prospect of picking up all of these books and more, do yourself a favor and head on over to our guide to creating the Ultimate Stephen King collection.
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NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.