Mike Flanagan’s latest Netflix series may not be on par with The Haunting anthology series or Midnight Mass, but it’s still a satisfactory series worth watching this spooky season.
Writer, director, and showrunner Mike Flanagan has had a remarkable streak in recent years and is just a little over a year from releasing arguably the best thing in film or television last year. Most people now should know Mike’s name, and it goes without saying that anything his name is attached to jumps near to the top of an anticipated list and comes with high expectations. Out today is The Midnight Club, which is based on the Christopher Pike novel of the same name and is created by both Flanagan and Leah Fong. While it may not be on the same level as Flanagan’s previous shows on Netflix, it’s still a rewarding horror mystery worth your time, thanks to its tremendous young cast and story.
Taking place in Washington State, The Midnight Club follows a group of terminally ill teenage patients at Brightcliffe Hospice. When the newest patient, Ilonka (Iman Benson), arrives at the facility, she meets all the other teenage patients along with the on-site nurse (Zach Gilford) and head of Brightcliffe, Dr. Georgina Stanton (Heather Langenkamp). One night, Ilonka stumbles upon a group of patients meeting together in the library late at night, where she finds out they meet every night at midnight to tell each other scary stories. Quickly, she joins the club, and they make a pact that the first one to die will try to reach out to them from the other side. Slowly, Ilonka and the other patients begin to uncover old history about Brightcliffe. And, sure enough, strange occurrences begin to happen.
Like most of Flanagan’s work, The Midnight Club is a slow-burn horror mystery from the get-go. But what adds intrigue to this particular slow-burn, conveyed over its 10-episode season, are the stories told at midnight in almost every episode, giving viewers a story within a story. All the characters we meet at Brightcliffe have their own pasts and secrets, which are vividly told in some way through their own scary stories. Most of these stories within the story are good, but some either needed more fleshing out while others needed trimming. It’s not to say that the show could have cut an episode or two; but some of the episodes, especially towards the middle part of the season, could have used some pruning. Also, those expecting frights or horror around every corner of Brightcliffe like we’ve seen in other works from Flanagan should temper their expectations. Yes, you can see Flanagan’s work all over this series. But just be prepared for more mystery than horror this go-around.
All of that being said, the stories of the teenage patients shine throughout the season, as we better understand what they have been through and the diseases they are fighting. Viewers will find themselves vested in all the main cast of teenage patients – and you can’t say that about the main cast for every show. The mystery of Brightcliffe also doesn’t lose its viewers throughout the season. And without spoiling anything, once viewers begin to piece together what’s going on, the story, as a whole, feels more satisfying considering the journeys we the teenage patients go through not only at Brightcliffe, but also before they even set foot at the facility.
The best thing about The Midnight Club is all the kids playing the teenage patients, who while all are relatively unknown actors, are still outstanding in this show. While Iman Benson plays the main character of Ilonka, all the other actors are equally as good. These actors include Sauriyan Sapkota as Amesh, Adia as Cheri Ian, Igby Rigney as Kevin, Ruth Codd as Anya, Aya Furukawa as Natsuki, Annaarah Cymone as Sandra, and William Chris Sumpter as Spencer. In smaller roles playing the adults, Heather Langenkamp as the head doctor of Brightcliffe is great, and two familiar faces from Midnight Mass, Zach Gilford as a nurse and Samantha Sloyan as a next-door neighbor, are also very good.
For the past few years, Mike Flanagan has offered viewers the best content during this time of the year. And while it’s not on the same level as his previous work, it’s still worth the time viewers will invest in this type of programming. Stay for the intrigue and ghostly stories. Leave hoping we see an even better second season that gives us more stories and reveals more mysteries from The Midnight Club.