The Midnight Club: facing death, the fight of life

Announced in May 2020, The Midnight Club is available on Netflix since Friday, October 7. Adapted from Christopher Pike’s 1994 novel of the same name, the series offers a story that is as harrowing as it is moving.

Already the father of two horror series on the platform, Mike Flanagan is now adapting the novel that rocked his adolescence. The Midnight Club, written by Christopher Pike in 1994, is a horrific young-adult novel that he describes as a mix between The Fault in Our Stars and Are You Afraid of the Dark ?

It is in 2019 that Mike Flanagan contacts the writer to adapt his favorite work on the small screen. Already a fan of The Haunting, Pike accepts and the collaboration was born to tell the story of these teenagers in terminal phase. In a house reserved for dying young people during the 90s, they meet every night at midnight by the fire to share chilling stories. A promise is also made : the first one to die will have to come out of his grave to communicate with the remaining people. As the tragedy unfolds, strange and frightening events happen inside the house. 

Different house, atmosphere as scary

Ilonka (Iman Benson) has a bright future at school and plans to attend a top university when she learns she is terminally ill. Her determination to survive brings her to Brightcliff, where she hopes miraculous healings from the past can help her.

Having made a habit of working on haunted houses in The Haunting, Mike Flanagan manages to make the walls of Brightcliff oppressive. While the young people themselves are between life and death, apparitions from elsewhere intrude on the camera’s frame. This new series centered on teenagers is not in the same tone as the director’s previous works : the background subject matter is still worked out, but it drags less and remains entertaining from the beginning to the end, punctuated by the characters’ stories.

Through the stories told by the young people of the “Midnight Club”, the series mixes all genres in only 10 episodes. Inspired by David Fincher, we find thrillers, fantasy, folk horror, slasher, and even black and white films from the 40s. Monsters, cults and killers join forces to prevent our protagonists from abandoning themselves to the arms of Morpheus once night falls.

The club meetings offer a real dive into the works of Christopher Pike. If the series mainly adapts The Midnight Club, other stories of the author have slipped into those told by young people before going to sleep. For example, Kevin’s The Wicked Heart, Sandra’s Gimme a Kiss, Amesh’s See You Later, Ilonka’s Witch, Natsuki’s Road to Nowhere and Spence’s The Eternal Enemy are all based on Christopher Pike’s novels of the same name. Even the shadow that follows the patients is a nod to his book Remember Me, a favorite of series co-creator Leah Fong.

The horror, as supernatural as real 

While illness is an everyday struggle for them, the young people of the “Midnight Club” have left the battlefield to enjoy the time they have left. With the monsters they create to scare each other, they each act out their own demons. In the horrific stories they tell, they romanticize their own lives, their battle with their mortality in order to understand it better. The Midnight Club reminds us that as human beings, all that remains of us after we die are our stories: “When you live in someone else’s heart, you live on,” says Trevor Macy, the series’ executive producer. Thus, the series is a bittersweet mix of horror and poetry.

In the story told by Spencer (Chris Sumpter) about time travel and artificial intelligence, he plays a robot wanted by a man who wants to kill him. As the story unfolds, the point becomes clear: to remain human, one must suffer. If we eliminate suffering, we take away what makes us people. A mantra that the author, who wrote The Midnight Club when his mother had breast cancer, trusts. The idea for the book came to him when a little girl who was sick told him that the children in her hospital had created a “Midnight Club” to talk about his work. She asked him if he could write about them, and although he hurried to finish his novel, she died before she could read it. The little girl had a Polish name, and the character Ilona Pawluk – which is also a Polish name – was named after her.

These stories punctuate the narrative in such a way that the viewer is never bored. It can even leave him wondering, ending on a mysterious cliffhanger. Despite everything, the series is finely conducted and the actors play their different roles with accuracy. Each of them plays his character, as well as those of the stories they tell, a difficulty they all brave without a hitch. The cast includes Igby Riney (Kevin) and Annarah Cymone (Sandra), who already appeared in Midnight Mass. The director also integrates the TikTokeuse Ruth Codd, whose it is the first appearance on small screen. But Mike Flannagan brings back a true horror icon, casting Heather Langenkamp (Nancy in Nightmare on Elm Street) as the enigmatic Dr. Georgina Stanton, the founder of Brightcliffe.

After The Haunting and Midnight Mass, the collaboration between Mike Flanagan and Netflix does not stop here. Indeed, the partnership is renewed for a new project that should see the light of day in 2023: The Fall of the House of Usher, a horror mini-series based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe.