Mike Flanagan's Midnight Mass Is About How The Bible Is Really A Horror Story

Mike Flanagan is back at Netflix with the horror series "Midnight Mass." It's a project Flanagan has been hoping to make for years – in fact, multiple networks turned it down. It wasn't until the success of Netflix's "The Haunting of Hill House" that Flanagan was finally given the chance to bring "Midnight Mass" to life. In a sprawling new profile on the show, Flanagan dishes some "Black Mass" details, revealing a surprising inspiration for the series: the Bible. Yes, we're talking the Bible here. Say your prayers. 

The Bible as Horror Literature

I grew up Catholic (I'm more or less an agnostic bordering on atheism at this point, like most Catholics I know), so I know all about the supernatural horrors baked into the faith. Say what you will about The Bible, but it's loaded with ghosts, demons, mass extinctions, supernatural beings, and all sorts of scary stuff. Mike Flanagan also knows all about this stuff, and it plays a part in his new horror series "Midnight Mass." Speaking with Vanity Fair, Flanagan revealed that one of the inspirations for the show was the Bible itself. 

"It's impossible to separate the Bible as a book from horror literature. It has everything in there," says Flanagan. "It's overtly and unapologetically espousing supernatural, horrific events left and right. Even the hero of the story—God, the embodiment of love—drowns the world when he gets angry enough in the Old Testament." The filmmaker added: 

"This isn't about just Catholicism, it's about the traditions of all of our religions, especially ones that reach back into the ancient world. The ancient world was a bloody and violent and terrifying place where we didn't understand the nature or the weather, or whether we'd live through the night or through the season. And every single natural function of the planet could be made to feel like a supernatural attack."

The Vanity Fair piece further describes the show as "a gateway to exploring zealotry and extremism, especially when those things are perpetrated with the best intentions." The series also grapples with Flanagan's "own feelings about faith, morality, forgiveness, and how human beings can distort those things, sometimes out of naïveté, and sometimes for their own glory rather than that of the greater good they purport to serve."

Denialism Has Become Its Own Religion

I don't want to get off on a rant here, but the current landscape of the world, and especially the United States, is pretty damn dire. We've gone a bit off the deep end here and there are millions of Americans who are 100% committed to lies all in the name of "owning the libs," or some such nonsense. It's not pleasant! And those cracks in our culture will be a part of the show. As the Vanity Fair profile states: "In a time where denialism has become its own religion, demagogues manipulate followers, and misplaced skepticism fuels dangerous conspiracy theories, the lessons of 'Midnight Mass' seem more relevant than before."

Flanagan's producing partner Trevor Macy added: 

"I think the story is important to Mike because it represents nearly everything that's important to him as a human being and as a filmmaker. He gets to touch all of those bases in one show."

"Midnight Mass" focuses on:

a small, isolated island community whose existing divisions are amplified by the return of a disgraced young man (Zach Gilford) and the arrival of a charismatic priest (Hamish Linklater). When Father Paul's appearance on Crockett Island coincides with unexplained and seemingly miraculous events, a renewed religious fervor takes hold of the community – but do these miracles come at a price?

"The actual miracles that begin to affect the residents of [the island] become impossible to ignore," Flanagan tells Vanity Fair, adding:

"It starts small. It starts with things like gray hair turning brown or blonde again, and people no longer needing their reading glasses. Bad backs and arthritis pain going away. But in relatively short order, Father Paul, on the alter at St. Patrick's, heals someone, echoing the kinds of miracles that Jesus himself performed for the sick. It takes the entire island's breath away."

All of this sounds great. Religious-tinged horror has often yielded great results – see "The Exorcist," "Rosemary's Baby," and countless others. I've been a big fan of Flanagan's work since his feature debut "Absentia," so I can't wait to check out "Midnight Mass" when it hits Netflix on September 24, 2021.