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Why Midnight Mass Suggests Great Things Are Coming In Mike Flanagan's Dark Tower Series

For years, studios and filmmakers have tried to adapt Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" series for the screen. After years of development, a proper movie version was finally released in 2017 (starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey), but it failed to gain enough success or traction to generate any sequels. Amazon subsequently explored the possibility of a TV adaptation from Glen Mazzara, but the series failed to take shape (per Deadline). Now it seems that the popular dark fantasy saga may once again be headed for the small screen, this time under the leadership of new school horror legend Mike Flanagan.

In a recent interview with Deadline, Flanagan and Intrepid Pictures production partner Trevor Macy revealed that they've acquired the adaptation rights for "The Dark Tower." This announcement comes just as Intrepid Pictures is setting off on a new venture with Amazon, leaving behind a Netflix catalog that includes "The Haunting of Hill House," "The Haunting of Bly Manor," and "The Midnight Club." In the interview, Flanagan called "The Dark Tower" his "Holy Grail" and said that he's been wanting to adapt the books for a very long time. He also claimed that he already has an outline in mind, which would include five seasons of television and two stand-alone movies. 

After so many failed adaptations, fans of "The Dark Tower" might be hesitant to get excited about Flanagan's project. But he might just be the perfect person to finally bring the story home, and his acclaimed Netflix limited series "Midnight Mass" is proof. 

Midnight Mass shows Flanagan is a master of metaphorical horror

One of the reasons that "The Dark Tower" is so notoriously difficult to adapt for the screen is that it isn't a strictly literal story. The saga of the gunslinger and his search for the eponymous tower dabbles in various genres, including high fantasy and myth. With Stephen King's trademark blend of grounded suspense and bizarre supernatural circumstances, "The Dark Tower" blurs a lot of lines. It's both the literal story of characters in the detailed realm of Mid-World and a more abstract story about the eternal struggle between good and evil. And as the centerpiece of King's multiverse, there's a lot going on outside the main action.

At first glance, "Midnight Mass" might not seem to have all that much in common with "The Dark Tower," but a lot of what Mike Flanagan accomplishes in the Netflix series also applies to King's fantasy saga. More so than any of Flanagan's other shows thus far, "Midnight Mass" is also a blend of contemporary horror and metaphorical storytelling. The show tells the story of a mysterious Catholic priest who brings strange rituals and dangers to his tiny island community. The world is pretty self-contained, but the ideas explored are much larger, like in "The Dark Tower."

Righteousness, forgiveness, death, and redemption are all explored in "Midnight Mass," and the various characters are equal parts three-dimensional people and symbols of these different themes. Flanagan manages to make the story work on both literal and metaphysical levels, which is exactly what a "Dark Tower" adaptation needs to succeed.

Midnight Mass perfectly blends fantasy and darkness

"The Dark Tower" is true dark fantasy — not quite horror, not quite science fiction, but an effective combination of multiple genres under a single, shadowy tone. It isn't always scary, but the pervasive presence of true evil in the story maintains a sense of dread. While "Midnight Mass" is more strictly traditional horror, it also bridges this aesthetic gap successfully through its seven episodes.

The "angel" that terrorizes Crockett Island in "Midnight Mass" is a terrifying, blood-drinking creature, but it's also frightening because of the mystery that surrounds it. Is it actually an angel? Did it heal Monsignor Pruitt out of genuine pity, or simply to find new feeding opportunities and increase its numbers? Where does it come from? And what does its presence mean metaphysically? We don't ever get concrete answers to these questions, but they create fascinating lore in the negative space of the show. It's the kind of out-of-the-corner-of-your-eye worldbuilding that would add a ton of dimension to a "Dark Tower" show, and Mike Flanagan is already quite skilled at it.

The flashback scene at the end of "Midnight Mass" Episode 3 is a perfect example of this subtle, foreboding style of fantasy. The angel's attack on Monsignor Pruitt outside Jerusalem is visually striking, creating a space that feels isolated from the real world. It's frightening in its strangeness, which only makes you want to watch even more closely.

Mike Flanagan has successfully adapted Stephen King stories before

In addition to all the good signs in "Midnight Mass," Mike Flanagan is uniquely positioned to lead a "Dark Tower" series because he's already created multiple successful Stephen King adaptations. His last big project before beginning his tour at Netflix with "The Haunting of Hill House" was "Gerald's Game" in 2017, a film version of the King novel that received widespread acclaim, including from King himself. Then, in 2019, Flanagan adapted another King novel for the big screen — "Doctor Sleep," the sequel to "The Shining." Like so many of Flanagan's projects, the film became a hit with both critics and audiences.

While both of these films are much more focused than the sprawling, genre-spanning story of "The Dark Tower," there's an undeniable King DNA that permeates all of the author's work. Flanagan has made himself an expert at giving visual form to that style, clearly earning King's trust enough to secure the "Dark Tower" rights.

Of course, even now, there's no guarantee that Flanagan's grand plan will manifest. His new creative relationship with Amazon would seem like a perfect fit, as the studio has expressed interest in "The Dark Tower" before (via Deadline). Amazon also doesn't seem shy about committing to massive projects, as evidenced by recent series like "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power." Hopefully, "Dark Tower" fans will finally get the adaptation they've been waiting for someday soon.