Review of The Midnight Gospel (2020)

Moving picture, 3.3 hours

Seen in 2020.

Interviews on consciousness and death, staged as a podcast mirroring starring “actor” Duncan Trussell’s real-life podcast, in turn staged here as being run by an immature, irresponsible stoner named Clancy who spent borrowed money on a sapient universe-simulating vulva of dubious sanity and ontological status. Interview subjects include doctor Drew Pinsky, mortician Youtuber Caitlin Doughty and, in the final episode, Trussell’s own dying mother, Deneen Fendig.

The first episode gives the false impression that this is just Adventure Time (2010) on and about drugs. It shares everything from Pendleton Ward’s involvement to a zombie attack in the first episode and a friendly superpowered dog. It’s got a more quirky vaporwave- and modular-synth aesthetic though, a cultivated and disarming lo-fi surrealism for ages 16 and up, drawn in the style of Per Åhlin.

The show is so loosely composed that it can hardly even be called board-driven. It’s more like “Cosmos Laundromat” (2015). The interviews don’t respect the premise or the plot, to the point that the in-universe interviewer and subject are often being both killed and butchered as they calmly carry on talking. It’s well beyond the loose integration of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist (1995). Surprisingly, it does have a plot of sorts, following Clancy’s poor life causing untold misery for trillions of beings inside his “simulator”, like Katz’s son Ben but with casually dystopian technology. This plot is interesting enough on its own level. The animation isn’t great but it’s better than Squigglevision, with a lot of fun textures and occasional subplots filigreeing off the conversation. Only Doughty’s interview is actually interesting in itself; the rest are mainly about personal spirituality and don’t make much sense, but they are relaxing enough in their absurdity.

The Midnight Gospel is a fun project, staking out some unique territory between arthouse and Space Ghost Coast to Coast (1993).

moving picture zombie animation fiction series