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Dubai Diaries: Why 'Midnight Mass' is the horror we need today

anamika@khaleejtimes.com Filed on September 27, 2021

Mike Flanagan's Netflix show is a game changer.

Horror! What can possibly draw one to the genre? Is it the thrill, the unexpected twists and turns or gore? In my formative years, the genre would make me cringe. Jumpscares and blood were not for me.

And then I happened to watch Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby where the fear experienced by characters inspired as many nailbiting moments as did the physical demon.

If I have ever loved any horror film or show after that, it has to be Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House, as it talked about how childhood traumas can manifest themselves into ghosts.

His subsequent offering, The Haunting of Bly Manor, did not live up to the standards set by Hill House, but turned out to be a fairly engaging horror series that drew heavily from Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw.

Flanagan’s latest show Midnight Mass, however, is a game changer. Set in a small, isolated community in a remote island that experiences strange occurences, Midnight Mass talks about the kind of relationship we have or should have with our faith.

It starts with an appearance of a priest who is filling in for Reverend Prutt. We know that something is amiss as strange things begin to take place in the community — an old woman suffering from Alzheimer’s not only begins to remember everything, but begins ageing in reverse while a paraplegic girl finds herself walking.

Could science have a role to play or is it simply a miracle? The viewer discovers the answers as the plot unfolds.

The isolated community shown in the series could well be us. Driven to a socially distanced living owing to the pandemic, we are all more isolated and lonely than ever. Seeing deaths and devastation around us has also possibly strengthened our faith and belief in a force more powerful than us.

The question that Midnight Mass then asks is — where do you draw the line between your own judgment and what you leave to fate or faith? If these questions are interesting to a viewer watching the series in 2021, it is because we still have people who would rather not get vaccinated, leaving survival to chance and even going to a point where they believe the pandemic is a hoax.

The series also addresses that important question of ageing. In Midnight Mass, the old seem to be getting younger, but their newfound youth does not allow them to be anything more than what they had already been. The purpose of finding one’s youth all over again is to make the most of those opportunities that were either lost or relive them differently.

In the world that we inhabit today, we all are made acutely aware of the age and stage of life we are already in, and somewhere we do wish we got back the youth where we missed the opportunities.

Acquiring their youth back does not help some characters in Midnight Mass; rather, they find the prospect of confronting the new world order more daunting.

Midnight Mass is layered storytelling that covers a range of subjects that have turned into heated debates of our time. What redeems the series is that instead of giving easy answers, it compels you to ask questions that we often bury in our hearts and minds.

Anamika Chatterjee