Netflix’s Midnight Mass was a deeply personal story for creator Mike Flanagan. Fresh off his successful Haunting duology, the new horror series represented a chance to delve into his past as a Roman Catholic and explore the terror that can come from religion and faith. In a pair of new featurettes, Flanagan and executive producer Trevor Macy happily dig into the show’s development.
The more general of the two videos see Flanagan being fairly candid about how his past informed the show, particularly Zach Gilford’s character Riley. “Back in the days when I drank, there were times where I felt consequences wouldn’t apply to me,” he explained. But for Riley, those consequences very much did, and the show sees him dealing with that trauma as he returns to his hometown of Crockett Island. If that weren’t bad enough, the sudden appearance of wandering priest Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) may be hurting the town more than it helps.
“Faith is a sign post to who you are,” added Macy, “and so is what you fear.” By focusing on an isolated town going through a religious resurgence, the pair wanted to explore both sides of faith. “This is a story of the death of the community,” Flanagan added. Going further, he called what the people of Crockett go through in the series a “corruption” in their belief system that gradually spreads to envelop everyone on the island. As with most things involving religion, Flanagan and Macy aren’t really looking for a hard answer, and the latter described that as the show’s ethos: “Ask questions, not give answers. With luck, those questions stick with the viewer…and also terrify the living hell out of them. It’s a Mike Flanagan show, after all.”
And speaking of scares…
The big mystery surrounding Midnight Mass’ first half is some thing stalking Crockett Island shortly after Father Paul’s arrival into town. In episodes three and four, it’s revealed in all its glory: a vampire, believed by Paul to be an angel and whose blood he soon begins giving the rest of the town to drink during communion. Why a vampire? You can thank the Catholic Church and Bram Stoker for that. “The parallels between drinking the blood of Jesus and what I was reading in Dracula were unavoidable,” Flanagan admitted.
Where more recent interpretations of the vampire lord have been melancholy or outright sexy, Flanagan and Macy wanted to avoid that. Flanagan called it “ugly,” and Macy added that while it’s smart enough to get others to drink its blood, there’s no long-term plan for the winged beast.
When it came to the creation of the Angel, both Flanagan and Macy knew they wanted to do practical effects as much as possible. “The more practical you can be, the more the audience feels it,” Macy said. VFX was mainly used to handle the wings, which were real, but also incredibly heavy and hard to puppeteer. But the overall effect is one they’re proud of and want to pack an impact.
Midnight Mass is available now on Netflix.
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