Why ‘Midnight Mass’ is a Modern Day ‘Salem’s Lot’
#Spoliers for Netflix Midnight Mass and Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot#
Stephen King came up with the idea of Salem’s Lot when he wondered what Dracula would do if he had travelled to America instead of England. Pondering that he would probably get squashed by a passing car, he thought that rural America might be better suited for the blood sucking creature. With this idea swimming in his head, he conjured up a novel that saw a small Maine town slowly swallowed up by a vampire invasion. The latest Netflix series Midnight Mass imagines the same type of story, but places the action on a small, isolated island community. However, similarities to King’s novel do not end there.
The series is about a small, isolated island community whose existing divisions are amplified by the return of a disgraced young man and the arrival of a charismatic priest. However, the priest return is punctuated with a series of miracles that are tied to a mysterious figure seen wandering the island.
Mike Flanagan started his career with a couple of killer horror films, Absentia (2011) and Oculus (2013), which highlighted his talents for the genre, but his biggest project to date has to be the technically difficulty production of Stephen King’s novel Doctor Sleep. The Shining sequel needed a keen eye to marry together King’s Novel and the widely popular film by Stanley Kubrick, something Flanagan did spectautaculary. It’s clear that Flanagan is a fan of King’s work, having also adapted Gerald’s Game in 2017. Maybe he wanted to tackle Salem’s Lot, but couldn’t or maybe he was just inspired by King’s novel, either way, there is a bit of both King and Flanagan present in this dark and disturbing tale.
Midnight Mass is a passion project of writer/director Flanagan, who has had the idea bouncing around for a number of years. Having had huge success with Netflix on the critically acclaimed horror series The Haunting of Hill House for Netflix, which released in 2018, as well as its 2020 follow-up The Haunting of Bly Manor, Flanagan brought his story to life. Being a fan of King, it’s no wonder the new show shares more than just vampires in common.
There is a long list of similarities, but let us start by marrying up characters from the book and show. In King’s novel Ben Mears returns to Salem’s Lot after a long period of time, having spent some time there as a child. In Midnight Mass Riley Flynn returns to Crockett Island after spending time in prison. Both character were involved in tragic road accidents that ended with their partners dying, which set in motion their return to their respective childhood homes. Alongside our leading men, both book and show have another, more mysterious character, arrive in town. Richard Straker arrives to open up a new store in Salem’s Lot and Father Paul Hill arrives in Crockett to “replace” the town’s aging Monsignor Pruit. Both of these character bring an extra item of luggage with them, a secret vampire companion. In King’s Novel, the vampire Mr Barlow is transported to Salem’s Lot in a crate similar to how Father Paul transports his “Angel” to Crockett Island.
Apart from characters, it’s easy to spot buildings and histories that marry well together. Both book and show centers around one building in particular, The Marsten House in Salem’s Lot and The Church in Midnight Mass. Whilst the two buildings may server very different roles, they both provide a focal point for the story. Interestingly, both are very old buildings which have survived a massive blaze that swept through their respective towns. This blaze, in both book and show, acts as the inspiration that leads to the two towns being burnt down at the end of the stories.
Whilst Midnight Mass does share many more similarities with King’s book, it’s story is vastly different, taking the ideas of a vampire’s invasion and twisting it up in a confusion of religion, local politics and town grudges. It’s outlines are clearly inspired by the works of King, but the story stands uniquely in the vampire sub-genre. To be frank, there is nothing quite like this on the market at the moment, and whilst we wait fo the Salem’s Lot Reboot coming in 2022, Midnight Mass is the modern day Salem’s Lot we have been waiting for.
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