Welcome to Right on Cue, the podcast where we interview film, TV, and video game composers about the origins and nuances of their latest works.
While Netflix is firmly in the grips of Stranger Things fever, another, more quietly affecting horror series made waves through the back half of 2021 — Mike Flanagan‘s haunting, meditative horror-drama Midnight Mass, about a small, deeply religious seaside town beset by a series of miracles. First, a new, charismatic pastor (Hamish Linklater) takes over the local church; then, a young girl paralyzed all her life suddenly gains the power to walk again. But before long, we learn the deep, dark secrets of Father Paul, as well as the mysterious creature who came with him, and the perverse lengths the town will turn just to get a whiff of its ungodly gifts.
Like so many of Flanagan’s projects, it’s a riveting tale that uses the aesthetics of horror to tell deeply personal, psychological stories. Midnight Mass ruminates on, among other things, the heady mix of grief and faith, the power of religious fervor, and the lengths to which we’ll go to stave off the unrelenting specter of death.
Midnight Mass is maybe Flanagan’s most personal project — it’s a story he’s waited decades to tell — which makes it fitting that his longtime composers, Andy Grush and Taylor Newton Stewart (otherwise known as The Newton Brothers), came along for the ride, having worked with him on nearly every project since 2013’s Oculus.
The score is steeped in the show’s Catholic milieu, comprised primarily of repurposed hymns, lovingly recreated and accentuated by the Newton Brothers’ understanding of Flanagan’s mission for Midnight Mass. And together, we chat about their longstanding relationship with Flanagan, Andy’s deep relationship to Catholicism, and how those dynamics informed their approach to crafting a score as significant for its moments of quiet awe as its sense of atmospheric horror.
You can find The Newton Brothers at their official website here.
Midnight Mass is currently streaming on Netflix. You can also listen to the score for Midnight Mass on your preferred music streaming service (or vinyl!) courtesy of Waxwork Records.