Horror author Stephen King is known for creating characters that play in the same universe. Now, director and Midnight Mass creator Mike Flanagan is doing the same. Find out how Flanagan’s King-inspired projects teased the Netflix series Midnight Mass. Plus, the other ways King inspires the future of Flanagan’s horror storytelling.
What is ‘Midnight Mass’ is about?
In July 2019, Deadline reported details about the plot of Midnight Mass. The seven-episode limited series follows an isolated island community that experiences miracles and frightening omens after a charismatic, mysterious young priest arrives.
According to a statement from Flanagan, the limited series is heavily inspired by his childhood in the church. “As a former altar boy about to celebrate three years of sobriety [one of Midnight Mass’ characters is sober], it’s not hard to see what makes this so personal,” says Flanagan. “It is also born of the things that scare me the most. The ideas that animate my work always scare me, but the ideas at the root of Midnight Mass terrify me to my core.”
‘Midnight Mass’ teasers in Mike Flanagan’s Netflix movies
As Flanagan points out in his Midnight Mass statement, the series was 10 years in the making. “You may have noticed Midnight Mass as Maddie’s novel in Hush,” he writes. The 2016 Netflix movie tells the story of an author (Kate Siegel) who is stalked and trapped by a masked killer.
In the film, Maddie’s neighbor borrows the book she wrote, Midnight Mass. According to Newsweek, a brief excerpt from the book is seen in the movie. “But the 512 souls on sleepy Crocket…” the excerpt reads. “Church put Riley face to face with a terrifying secret.”
The series also appeared in another Flanagan project, Gerald’s Game, based on the King novel. Midnight Mass sits on the shelf in Gerald’s Game. Flanagan refers to these two cameos as what let him “keep the project alive when it looked like no one would make it.”
Stephen King books exist in a universe Mike Flanagan is seemingly trying to emulate
Fans of Flanagan’s King-adapted pick up on his references to King’s books with ease. For example, in Gerald’s Game and Doctor Sleep, Flanagan references the King universe that exists outside of the story.
Gerald’s Game makes connections to King’s novel Dolores Claiborne and The Dark Tower series. Plus, there’s a nod to Flanagan’s horror movie Oculus. Since Midnight Mass is a real Netflix series “authored” by a fictional character, some think Flanagan is laying the groundwork for his own signature universe — one much like King has established throughout his career.
‘Midnight Mass’ isn’t a continuation of Netflix’s ‘Hill House’ or ‘Bly Manor’
Midnight Mass get mentioned in other Flanagan works, but the limited series stands independently. It doesn’t relate to the stories in The Haunting of Hill House or The Haunting of Bly Manor.
“One of the things that defines the Haunting anthology is that both of them are about updating and riffing on existing classic literature,” Flanagan told Entertainment Weekly. Shirley Jackson’s gothic horror novel inspired The Haunting of Hill House, while Henry James‘ The Turn of the Screw inspired Bly Manor.
“Midnight Mass was always so original and important and personal,” Flanagan says. “It just never felt like it was ever going to be a part of that universe.” This project has no relation to Vertigo Comics’ Midnight, Mass, either.
Stream all seven episodes of Midnight Mass on Netflix beginning Friday, Sept. 24.
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