As Halloween comes and goes and people embrace the utterly frightening, the popular Netflix show “Midnight Mass” has gained notoriety for being just as frightening as the usual ghoulish gore that surrounds the holiday. Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of the entire series is the scarily accurate portrayal of humanity.
Catholics are no strangers to false depictions in the media, and some may still run to categorize “Midnight Mass” as a gross mockery of the unique aspects of Catholicism, but I saw the plot as a shockingly beautiful story of life after the fall of Adam and Eve.
Drawing from his childhood experience growing up in the Catholic Church, director and creator Mike Flanagan dreamed up a world in which Catholics became vampires from consuming the Body and Blood of Christ.
This question is a genuine one and should not go unanswered.
Perhaps I, as an aspiring theology major, do not have all the answers, but I believe that I can offer some insight as a human being who enjoys looking at art through a Catholic lens.
Although it is my understanding that “Midnight Mass” is supposed to be a commentary on religion and cults as the real horror stories, I noticed several details that non-believers and non-Catholics may not have noticed.
The story is set on a small, remote island that experiences a religious revival as a young priest arrives in town to replace the old Monsignor Pruitt. The plot unfolds and reveals a sinister creature mistaken for an “Angel of God” who the young priest has brought back with him from a trip to the Holy Land. I would describe this character more as a demon-vampire, whose mission is to turn humans into a creature like itself.
The townspeople go on to believe, influenced by the new priest and other Pharisee-like characters, that this lifestyle of preying and feasting on their neighbors’ blood will somehow earn them a spot in Heaven.
Any person of faith, or who has even read the Bible once or twice, will notice something strange about the creature.
It is indeed not an “Angel of God” because it is terrified of the light. In fact, it will die if it steps into the light.
A creature of darkness is not a creature of God, and all the gory deeds that revolve around this feasting of blood occur during the darkest hours of the night.
So while the characters are being fooled by this vampire-like creature, I was immediately skeptical.
I also thought of one conversation I had with some other students a while back about “Dracula,” and how vampires are the antithesis of Christ present in the Eucharist: where Christ says, “This is my body given up for you,” a vampire’s lifestyle revolves around the opposite, “This is your body given up for me.”
Where the director meant to compare religion and horror, he actually juxtaposes them as perfectly as night and day.
Further into the plot, tragedy strikes the town during the Easter Vigil Mass where everyone turns into this blood-thirsty creature, even those who were faithfully attending Mass and practicing their faith.
One of the most moving comparisons present in the last episode is how turning into this creature is like humanity and sin.
Once you’re “bitten,” it feels unstoppable. How many of us think that once we’re caught up in the web, we’re done for?
The main character’s parents are two of the only victims who discover that the condition is controllable. The father describes his experience as feeling the urge but refusing to let it have what it wants because he knows that it isn’t right, and his wife agrees with him.
They are a part of a small group of characters who unfortunately fall into this snare but still maintain a certain purity about themselves — that no matter how badly they want to embrace the evil that they’ve turned into, they listen to their hearts and find the strength to prevent themselves from doing any more damage to their town and their loved ones.
It’s easy to look at “Midnight Mass” as a whole and gather pitchforks over a product of another poorly-catechized Catholic, and there are justifiable reasons to do so.
However, it’s much more difficult to sit down and take the time to go through someone else’s art and dissect exactly what is going on and how else it can be interpreted.
Because while on the outside it seems as if the intentions are to display the so-called “horrors of religion,” I think at its heart is a person longing to know Christ by asking the childish question, “Hey, does this make us vampires?”
I don’t think that Jesus is scandalized by our honesty, I think He smiles and finds it amusing.
So then the questions of the matter should not lead us to despair, but rather stand in awe of the human experience and wonder what a show about Catholic vampires can teach us about ourselves because God always takes what is meant for evil and turns it for good, just like the series if you give it a chance.