Is Midnight Mass Scary? A Horror Guide for Chickens

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Is <i>Midnight Mass</i> Scary? A Horror Guide for Chickens

Some of us are chickens, ok? And we can’t handle horror. But sometimes a horror series comes out that everyone is talking about, and we’re curious. Can I handle it? Is it psychologically creepy or is there gore? Both? How much?

So for the easily spooked out there, of which I am one, here are some spoiler-free notes on Netflix’s Midnight Mass in terms of scares.

First though, some context: Midnight Mass is the latest limited series from Mike Flanagan, who is also known for his Netflix horror anthology series The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor. It follows a haunted (theme!) young man, Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford), who returns to his Maine fishing village, Crockett Island, after being released from prison. His arrival coincides with that of a charismatic priest, Father Paul (Hamish Linklater), who has Good News to share with the island. This isolated and dying village soon becomes overwhelmed with religious fervor as miracles start happening around them. But what is behind them?

As our critic Katherine Smith notes in her review, “Midnight Mass is a show that burrows inwards instead of outwards. With both the physical claustrophobia of Crockett’s setting and the internal suffering of characters placed in center stage, Midnight Mass concerns itself with horrors within: addictive tendencies, secret histories, and questions of forgiveness and belief. At one glance, it’s a series that’s mined Catholic guilt for gold. In another, it’s a measured, yet spooky take on group psychology, the need for faith in sorrow, and the ethics of leadership with such vulnerable followers, weighing whether these impulses represent human goodness, evil, or simply nothing at all.”

If you have seen either Hill House or Bly and lived to tell the tale, I can confidently say that Midnight Mass will not be too scary for you. It’s milder than Bly, which was milder than Hill House (which was too scary for me!) Personally, Bly and Midnight Mass are just the right amount of spooky fun without keeping me up at night, but your mileage may absolutely vary on that.

For those who haven’t watched those other series, a few general notes: There are a few jump scares, mostly in the early episodes, and later on there is gore. However, it’s not any worse than a network crime drama. (Keep in mind that those network crime dramas can be pretty bloody!)

So is this a daylight-only kind of show? Not especially; the jump scares lead to images that might be disturbing, but they are also oddly artistic (think Hannibal on NBC). Midnight Mass has a spooky atmosphere and builds tension through slow reveals of the “truth” of what’s happening on the island, but it’s less concerned about scaring the pants off you. It is creepy, and later episodes do feature occasional buckets of blood. There is also some animal harm featured in the first two episodes for those who are sensitive to that (it’s very clear that the animals featured are puppets, but it’s still sad!)

Of the show’s seven episodes, the first two are probably the scariest because you don’t know what’s happening or what’s coming next. If you can handle those (maybe watch them in the daytime if you’re unsure), it’s all smooth-sailing from there. Well, other than the general horrors taking place, of course. And the emotional depth. And the spiritual quandaries. And…

Happy viewing!

Midnight Mass is now streaming on Netflix.



Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV

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