Mike Flanagan has done it again with his new Netflix limited series Midnight Mass, but at this point I’m pretty sure the man is incapable of making a misstep in his craft and is the front runner for consistency, quality and innovation among filmmakers working in the horror genre these days. Mass is the best thing he’s done since his now legendary foray into long-form Netflix storytelling The Haunting Of Hill House, a benchmark masterpiece that now sits alongside this equally breathtaking crown jewel in his career so far. Set on the tiny remote Crockett Island off the Canadian coast, it tells the story of many different townsfolk whose lives are all changed significantly with the arrival of a mysterious, unnerving preacher (Hamish Linklater), whose coming heralds other scary, biblically relevant events all over the island. Who is he? What has he brought with him from wherever he came from? The mysteries, revelations and narrative surprises here are too darkly delicious and exciting to spoil in a review so that’s about as far as I’ll go plot-wise. As is always the case with Flanagan, the human elements of character, dialogue, emotion and slow burn storytelling are just as important to him as gore, scares, horror elements and this is what makes him such a strong filmmaker. The acting sees uniformly career best work from Flanagan regulars and newcomers alike, with personal standouts for me including Robert Longstreet as the town drunk with a painful past, Kate Siegel as the deeply soulful schoolteacher, Zach Gilford as a haunted local returning after years and a guilt ridden tragedy, Samantha Sloyan in a terrifying showstopper as the world’s most despicable clergywoman and so many more, all excellent and all with their keystone moments to shine. Linklater himself is a force of nature, so horrifyingly effective as a serial rapist in the phenomenal Amazon Prime series Tell Me stout Secrets and again providing a masterclass here, he’s somehow perfected this acting vernacular and line delivery that is simultaneously as intense as a dragon staring you down but as gentle and lilting as a summer breeze, he’s an artist on another plane. The story and themes here are heavily rooted in Catholicism and Flanagan delves deep into issues of guilt, forgiveness, penance, reconciliation and delusional wayward souls mistaking evil for angelic salvation, but the material never feels preachy or aimed solely at the religious demographic, these are ideas, emotional arcs and universal concepts that are accessible for any viewer, simply refracted through the prism of an isolated town where Catholic values and practices are still a way of life. There are numerous monologues on life, death, the universe and the nature of the soul that are beautifully written and performed with aching soulfulness by several of the actors in Flanagan’s trademark patient, sedimentary long takes that allow words, conversation and emotion to flow freely and organically from the actors on their own time. The horror is at once human and otherworldly as we see this community descend into an escalating downward spiral that feels like the darkest nightmare, the atmosphere and tone straddling this sort of “Atlantic Coast Gothic” meets “Olde Worlde Demonism” type aesthetic that’s just the perfect flavour. This is the real deal; assured, immersive, eerie as all hell, humane, an emotional wrecking ball and one of the best experiences I’ve had with any show or film this year.