It was 11:55 pm when I started streaming ‘The Midnight Club’ alone in a room, it’s a Netflix horror series about eight young terminally ill patients swapping scary stories late at night in a large haunted looking house. I was hoping to be spooked. But since it’s created by Mike Flanagan and Leah Fong, who are also behind titled likes ‘Haunting of Hill House‘ (pretty great, definitely recommend) and ‘Haunting of Bly Manor‘ (extremely disappointing, skip it), my expectations were measured. And sure enough, despite having the almost perfect ‘old mansion’ setting, with a bunch of dying residents to make it furthermore depressing, ‘The Midnight Club’ works better as a teen drama about death, than a horror show.
The plot follows perfect student Ilonka (Iman Benson), whose dreams of studying in a Ivy league college are crushed when she finds out she has cancer. She decides to move to Brightcliffe hospice, a place where young patients are allowed to live their last days on their own terms; there she becomes part of ‘the midnight club’, where residents meet to tell all kinds of stories to each other. And while Ilonka enjoys these sessions, she suspects there’s a dark fascinating secret buried in the haunted old corridors of the mansion, which was once home to a sinister cult…
The show is only 10 episodes long, but by episode 6, Ilonka gets quite unbearable, a miss ‘know it all’ who thinks she is better than everybody else and deserves a miracle. But if there was a prize for ‘the most annoying character’ in this show, it would go to Ruth Codd who plays Anya, Ilonka’s bitchy roommate in the hospice. While it’s understandable that a terminally ill patient would have a lot of pent up anger, hatred and what not… Anya is too over the top. Maybe she is a “you’ll love her or hate her” kind of character. Didn’t love her. There is a difference between being ‘tough’ and an ‘asshole’, and the writers seem to think they are interchangeable. The rest of the cast has better written roles but feels like they don’t get enough space.
As far as the stories narrated by the club members are concerned, they ranged from mildly interesting to plain boring. The writers of the show attempt to rationalize the weak tales by subtly reminding viewers they are being told by characters who are in their late teens or early twenties, not expert storytellers. There were one or two scene that managed to give me goosebumps, but overall, the supernatural/horror bits were underwhelming. It’s the friendship and bonds the eight youngsters forge with each other in their dying days that keeps the series alive.
‘The Midnight Club’ isn’t about ghosts and buried secrets, but a poignant painting of death, of its eventuality and escaping its claws briefly through shared stories.
It’s a 6/10 from me.