Flanagan’s latest Netflix series explores the afterlife using a bizarre but effective premise.
A scene from Netflix’s new Horror movie The Midnight Club shows a teenager reviewing a narrative of horror stories as “something that has devolved to a pile of bullshit jumping scares.” Designed by Mike Flanagan (Netflix’s favorite horror author) The Midnight Club features self-aware teens who can identify purpose even in the face of certain death. This meditation by Flanagan, which goes beyond the examination of grief and questions the afterlife, has a lot to love. This series is full of sentimental fury, power, and an almost depressing premise. However, it can sometimes seem to be too much. However, it’s always promising.
The Midnight Club focuses on a hospice for teenagers in terminal stages. This is not enough to make it depressing. The defiant tone and the strange nature of their stay in the facility might be more. What would you do if your life was over? The show asks this question hauntingly right from the beginning. Brightcliffe is the name of the manor. It continues Flanagan’s fascination with ancient houses as a place for horror and aggrieved past lives. Ilonka, the convincing Iman Benjaminson plays the protagonist. She enters the home, not as a normal teenager but to learn more about the history of the place.
Flanagan’s ability to create shock and awe for characters who are themselves uncomfortable, at times awkward, is one of the best things about horror. This isn’t just about the supernatural appearing to the normal. Ilonka is introduced in the mansion to the other children, who are all on the brink of death. Brightcliffe is sometimes too cheerful or nonchalant for a house filled with teenagers on the green mile. The premise is bizarre and even bewildering. The first episode may feel stiff due to the pressure to sell a story based on a depressing, bonkers concoction.
The Midnight Club is a teenage drama that has a few really good ideas. But, once you get past the first half an hour, The Midnight Club will find its feet. Ilonka and her friends see ghosts, old men and women, cults, and corrupted history, but the real power of the show is the joy of being immersed in the stories being told. Ghost faces and horror are just a sideshow that can sometimes feel like an adventure series. Ilonka discovers a club where most residents meet at night. The kids share ghost stories with each other (the why is an interesting dissection here). Club members form a pact to keep in touch with each other when one passes away. It’s a fascinating, if somewhat bleak, way to go and can sometimes be incredibly poignant.
The show’s main problem is its inability to balance the nightmarish rendezvous between a group of dying children and the rest of Brightcliffe’s daily events that Ilonka, and others, must navigate as a routine. Both have things you will like and something to ponder. However, it can be difficult to keep the story in a story format. The club’s late-night meetings are a younger form of storytelling. It’s brimming full of potential for adventure fiction. But then, there’s a lot more about the place, its bizarre purpose, and history, that we need to discover, all to justify the faces and hanging wooden dolls, the scary noises, and the murdered faces. At one point, I felt like I was longing for a quirky IT-Esque franchise that would cater to teenagers in search of purpose. But Flanagan knows better.
Teenage actors are able to do their jobs well considering that they must act in the stories they tell. They look depressed and have hearts beating still. Although it’s a difficult task, most actors, especially Ruth Codd, pass with flying colors. Midnight’s Club may not be as frightening or as poetic as Flanagan’s earlier work, but it shows the creator’s ability to find new notes with familiar instruments. Flanagan’s haunted mansion is still there, with a vulnerable back-story, but by focusing more on the horrors and less on the anxiety of not knowing the end – or even if there is an end – Flanagan creates something interesting, if not memorable.
Manik Sharma writes about art, culture, cinema, books, and everything in between.