‘The Midnight Club’ Is a Teen Horror Show That’s Actually Scary: TV Review

Mike Flanagan has emerged as one of Netflix’s key creators and a generational figure in the horror genre of late; Although his previous series for the streamer, including ‘Midnight Mass’ and ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, were of mixed quality overall and were consistently interesting from episode to episode. His willingness to confront his fears sets him apart, perhaps more than it should.

So is The Midnight Club, which Flanagan and Leah Fong co-created based on the work of young adult novelist Christopher Pike. Iman Benson stars as Ilonka, a high school salutator who goes to college and is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Ilonka is both a star student and an idealist; She researches Brightcliffe, a facility where her foster father can take her to be placed in a hospice, and secretly hopes there will be a miracle cure for her. What she first finds is a circle of sick teenagers who meet when the clock strikes twelve to tell spooky stories; It’s a biting nihilism they share, and a sense of indulgent joy in the knowledge that things could get worse: they could be battling cosmic forces of evil.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the lines are beginning to blur and jump scares are making the hospice seem like a portal to more than just teenage imaginations. But suffice it to say, the stories are well told and evoke a genuine sense of the dread that both exists outside of these young people’s plight and inevitably lies by their side. Ilonka’s mix of willfully blind hope and genuine fear is difficult to capture, but Benson outdoes him; Other standout performers in the cast include Ruth Codd as an Irish immigrant with a spiky exterior that masks her vulnerabilities, and Chris Sumpter as an HIV-positive teenager who is forced to confront his parents.

The mix of personal stories among teenagers has the power to resonate with anyone, but one suspects this show will find its most attentive audience among high school students with stiff physiques and strong nerves. Even more so than Stranger Things, it operates with a kind of youthful emotional logic, with the characters and the series itself imbued with a passion to speak up and be understood on their own terms. (And even more so than in Stranger Things, adults are fleeting and occasionally present, with Heather Langenkamp and Zach Gilford playing the hospice’s founding doctor and nurse, respectively.)

But even that adult admired “The Midnight Club” as a relatively complete example of Flanagan’s best approach in all of his Netflix work – using horror as a way to explore the worst things that could happen to someone, and so to a point of Curiosity and compassion to rise above grief and loss. For the grief and loss here to concern the characters’ own futures requires a sensitivity that Flanagan and Fong possess; It also begs to be accompanied by a suitably oversized and chilling horror, and they deliver.

The Midnight Club premieres on Netflix on Friday, October 7th.

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