THE MIDNIGHT CLUB l Netflix

After the successful debut of his previous series, “Midnight Mass,” many have been chomping at the bit to see what horror director Mike Flanagan has up his sleeves next. “The Fall of the House of Usher” is one upcoming series of his that has horror fans waiting on pins and needles. But we cannot forget his take on the Christopher Pike YA book, THE MIDNIGHT CLUB.

Flanagan has several genres to play with in this series: mystery, horror, and drama, and for the most part, he succeeds. Through the performances provided by the cast and strong writing, we are taken on an emotional journey that facilitates a great deal of empathy while also forcing ourselves to look inward. Given all we’ve experienced these past couple of years, THE MIDNIGHT CLUB comes at the right time.

THE MIDNIGHT CLUB stars Iman Benson, Igby Rigney, Ruth Codd, Annarah Cymone, William Chris Sumpter, Adia, and Aya Furukawa. The series also stars Sauriyan Sapkota, Matt Biedel, Samantha Sloyan, with Zach Gilford and Heather Langenkamp.

At a hospice with a mysterious history, the eight members of the Midnight Club meet each night at midnight to tell sinister stories – and to look for signs of the supernatural from the beyond. From Mike Flanagan, Trevor Macy, and Leah Fong, based on the book by Christopher Pike, THE MIDNIGHT CLUB will ask you to think about things that perhaps you’ve been putting off. Life, death, love, forgiveness; all these and more are explored in this YA-centric genre-blending series.

The weight of mortality

[Series Review] THE MIDNIGHT CLUB
Igby Rigney as Kevin, Iman Benson as Ilonka
Considering the weighty themes and topics he’s touched upon in series like “Haunting of Hill House” and more, there’s no one who is more adept at handling the subject matter presented in THE MIDNIGHT CLUB with care and dignity than Flanagan. The subject of young people dying is taboo and, oftentimes in media, can be portrayed as inspiration porn. This isn’t that. There’s an embrace of all the complexities the knowledge of being sick and dying brings visible here, and Flanagan leaves no stone unturned.

The story of THE MIDNIGHT CLUB is an interesting one, for it is a story that contains multiple mini-stories. The members of the club consist of eight members:  Ilonka, Kevin, Anya, Spencer, Natsuki, Cheri, Sandra, and Amesh. While it seems hard to keep track of all the characters, this is where the storytelling comes in. Gathering at midnight, each member of the titular club rotates turns to tell a story. These stories provide necessary insight into the individual characters that also allow for the directors, writers, and actors to explore genres.

It is also in these mini-stories that we get the most vivid imagery. The rest of the show is eye-catching, but it’s in these vignettes that we get visuals that pop. A horde of screaming victims, glowing fireflies in the woods, Angels in America references, and more welcome viewers in these moments. The downside of these mini-stories in a much larger story is that it does create inconsistencies in tone and pacing, making the overall series a bumpy ride in that regard.

The actors of THE MIDNIGHT CLUB

[Series Review] THE MIDNIGHT CLUB
Iman Benson as Ilonka, Ruth Codd as Anya, Igby Rigney as Kevin
Imagery, while lovely, isn’t what keeps a viewer’s interest. It’s the story and the players who bring it to life. Like many of Intrepid Pictures’ projects, the casting here in THE MIDNIGHT CLUB is well-done and honestly, would expect nothing less. That said, it does make it difficult to pinpoint standouts as all do such a great job.

Iman Benson’s Ilonka is the newbie to the block. While intelligent, her intelligence mixes with desperation the more the series develops. This combination highlights to the audience how easy it is for us to get sucked into things when we’re desperate to be healthy. Igby Rigney’s Kevin is more nuanced than Illonka’s. We see the toll it takes on him to cater to everyone else’s needs around him, and how this impacts him mentally via his stories.

Ruth Codd – honest to God – is the standout of the eight. She has the meaty role of Anya, the patient who has been at the hospice the longest. With a complex inner backstory, you’ll go from side-eying her to wanting to hug her with each episode.

Annarah Cymone and William Chris Sumpter play Sandra and Spencer respectfully. We see in their characters the conflict between religion and homosexuality (seen through the lens of AIDS, which was prevalent in the 80s-90s.) Their arcs are delivered beautifully. The same can be said for Aya Furukawa’s Natsuki and Sauriyan Sapkota’s Amesh. Adia’s Cheri, though, at times, feels underdeveloped acting-wise, so she gets lost.

Still from THE MIDNIGHT CLUB

The adults are no slouch either. While our moments with them are shorter compared to the teens, there’s a lot that they get to play with. Samantha Sloyan and Heather Langenkamp have the more difficult roles, playing around with audiences’ and respective characters’ minds. They’ll have you guessing all the way throughout THE MIDNIGHT CLUB.

Like with any Intrepid Pictures project, the setting is as much of a character as the cast. At Brightcliffe, it’s a mixture of early 1900s and art deco styles. Narrow hallways and circular doors with intricate designs bring us in. The wide-open space of the library is a dream and provides a sense of safety for the club as they tell their stories. The basement, comparatively, is dark and oppressive. It’s obvious that nothing good can happen here. Yet, still would likely want to try to live there.

The directors involved in each of the episodes have done a great job of maintaining the consistency and tone of the series. Everything comes together to create a strong YA series that embraces its horror, death’s grip, and life’s various mysteries. While some might complain it isn’t horrific enough, I’d disagree. Until you’ve had to face mortality dead in the face, you don’t know what horror truly is. That said, adults aren’t the target audience here. Keep that in mind when you dive in.

THE MIDNIGHT CLUB is a heavy show. The premise focuses on teens in a hospice facility, after all. With topics like drug use, suicide, and reconciling with mortality, if you’re not feeling up for what can manifest in you, that’s okay. Take your time. It’ll be there waiting for you.

THE MIDNIGHT CLUB has opened its doors officially for viewing on Netflix. Catch ’em now.

All images courtesy Eike Schroter/Netflix © 2022

Sarah Musnicky
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