The Midnight Club is Netflix's newest addition to the host of horror TV from filmmaker Mike Flanagan or the ‘Flanaverse' as the streaming service has dubbed it. Based on the YA novel of the same name written by Christopher Pike, who serves as an executive producer, the series, in true Flanagan style, takes something of a departure from its source material. Although, while quite different to the book, the bones of the story are still there (as are the main characters), albeit with some new additions to the group.
The story follows Ilonka (Iman Benson) a straight-A student set to attend Ivy League colleges, who instead is diagnosed with terminal cancer, and instead of enrolling in college she ends up at Brightcliffe Hospice, a hospice for terminally ill teenagers. Here she meets the members of the Midnight Club, a group of teenagers who meet at night to tell each other stories. The characters that readers of the book have come to know and love, Kevin (Igby Rigney), Anya (Ruth Codd), Sandra (Annarah Cymone), and Spencer (Chris Sumpter) are all members of this club, along with new characters Cheri (Adia), Natsuki (Aya Furukawa), and Amesh (Sauriyan Sapkota).
While those who wanted a true-to-page adaptation may find themselves disappointed. Flanagan does take this story in a rather interesting direction, looking into the history of the hospice, and how and why it came to be. While both the book and show focus on how precious life is, whether it be long or short, the show doesn't take quite the same approach as the book to past lives, and fate, although there are some references sprinkled throughout that fans may pick up on.
With the exception of ‘The Two Danas' the stories told by members of the club are other Christopher Pike stories, although perhaps not exactly as they are. Throughout the series, the characters retell the stories of The Wicked Heart, Gimme a Kiss, See You Later, Witch, Road to Nowhere, and The Eternal Enemy. In some parts, the show may feel like a story about a story, but it is instead, perhaps, a story about how life in itself is its own kind of story.
The show, as one might expect from a Mike Flanagan adaptation, has certainly ramped up the horror elements from the book. With an apparent record-breaking number of jumpscares, this is certainly not a series for the faint-hearted. The hospice is not just home to these teenagers, but also to a shadowy being that seems to appear to this about to die, and two menacing ghosts, who are thought to be the house's original owners, although this is never quite clarified.
Alongside introducing new members of the midnight club, the show also introduces the characters of Dr Georgina Stanton (Heather Langenkamp), who owns and runs the hospice, and Shasta (Samantha Sloyan), a new-age type who lives nearby and befriends Ilonka, who is searching for a miracle cure to her illness. All the characters, new and old, are incredibly well-cast, with everyone giving truly amazing performances.
While mostly a great watch, the show's worst part, is perhaps, that it doesn't quite land its ending. The ending is rather abrupt, with much going unexplained, which may not be a great way to end a series considering Netflix's reputation for cancelling shows, even if they appear popular at first. Perhaps the ending may hold up in a way that works if the show is renewed, allowing for an even deeper exploration of this tale.
The show is also very dark, and not just in subject matter, there are a number of scenes in which the viewer may struggle to see quite what is going on, especially if you are watching during the day and don't wish to have all your curtains and blinds closed. While a large part of the show is, understandably, set during the nighttime, this could be made clear without making it so difficult to actually see what's happening on screen.
Ultimately, The Midnight Club is a great addition to Netlfix's ‘Flanaverse', one that will likely be well-loved by fans of horror TV, and maybe even those who are not usually drawn to this genre. It's also a series that we certainly hope to see more of in the next few years.