Grinchmas 2023 · Healing Power of Horror · Horror · Horrorthon365 · Microreview · Television

Grinchmas 2023: The Predatory Transmission of Catholic Ideology in “Midnight Mass”

When I was growing up one of my family Christmas traditions was attending Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, after watching ‘Its a Wonderful Life.’ While we were gone, Santa would often visit, taking a bite from the biscuits we left out for him as well as a hefty swig of the stein of beer. Even though the Midnight Mass sermons were often the fire and brimstone of any major Catholic holiday, the evidence of magic at home for those few hours after were among some of the only good memories I have of my childhood. Almost as immediately as the last present was unwrapped by Christmas morning, the yelling and worse would start again. And it would be another year before those hours of peace at home between Midnight Mass and Christmas morning.

When I first began watching Mike Flanagan’s 2021 show ‘Midnight Mass’ after it first aired I had no idea how much the themes on screen would resonate not just with my past, but my present as I was going through intensive trauma therapy to put the traumas of my childhood and beyond to rest. The story follows Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford) as he returns home from a stint in prison after killing a girl while drunk driving. The childhood home he returns to has fallen on the hardest times, as illness and misfortune are the new plague on Crockett Island.

After a series of strange events involving a mysterious figure shadowing its way around the island, the locals find themselves newly in thrall of their woebegone church and the replacement for Monsignor Pruitt, charismatic Father Paul (Hamish Linklater).

Father Paul seems to bring with him miracle upon miracle, as incurable diseases disappear without a trace and even the paralyzed are able to walk again. But a side effect of these impossible events is that nobody who has taken communion is able to be in the sunlight anymore as the secret of Father Paul’s midnight masses is slowly revealed. Mike Flanagan is a recovering Catholic like myself, and it is scathingly clear in this phenomenal miniseries that also serves as a treatise on addiction, grief, and the futility of forgiveness.

The presence of a Muslim Sherrif Hassan (Rahul Kohli) and his son serve as counterpoint to highlight the toxicity of Catholic zealotry in particular embodied by pious Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan), whose faith ultimately offers her no comfort.

‘Midnight Mass’ explores how ancient Catholic dogma manifests as a clear and present danger to modern society, this colonizer’s religion that has done immeasurable damage to people around the world for centuries, and continues to. Beautifully written, gorgeously acted, with an evergreen message, ‘Midnight Mass’ is an absolute masterpiece. And I’m paying tribute to this healing experience by attending an actual Midnight Mass at the Catholic church near my house tonight. I’ll be imagining it’s Father Paul giving the sermon. And doling out the communion.

✨Wheelchair/5 stars. Highly recommend this phenomenal work of art masquerading as a Netflix show.✨

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Zuzu Zombie’s #Horrorthon365 project is a collection of eclectic genre watchlists with accompanying microreviews to suit the changing seasons. Horrorthon365 was sparked by a gnarly hand injury and carpal tunnel surgery gone awry, hence the flash-style reviews. After a wicked fall at home and brutal elbow fracture that required surgery, posts will be sporadic until I’m healed. In the meantime, browse the entire collection here