Netflix’s The Midnight Club is a haunting collection of teenage ghost stories
Ever since The Haunting of Hill House in 2018, showrunner Mike Flanagan has been on a steady run of dramatic horror series on Netflix. What’s made these shows so interesting is how they’ve all managed to take Flanagan’s horror sensibilities, where slow-burning drama trumps jump scares, with different kinds of stories. Hill House was about a family growing apart, while The Haunting of Bly Manor was a puzzle box crossed with a love story. Last year’s Midnight Mass took a turn for more gruesome horror (well, eventually). Now, we have The Midnight Club, which is clearly part of this anthology series but differentiates itself by playing like a collection of fireside ghost stories. It’s a little uneven, but when it works, it channels the best parts of Hill House.
Based on Christopher Pike’s book of the same name, The Midnight Club is set in the ’90s at a hospice called Brightcliffe, where teens with terminal illnesses are able to live out their remaining days with dignity and do it with people who understand what they’re going through. The eponymous club is exactly what it sounds like: at midnight, the kids sneak out to the library, sit at a big table while wrapped up in their housecoats, and as they describe it, “make ghosts” by telling each other stories.
At the outset, Ilonka (Iman Benson) finds her big plans for the future — she just got into Stanford — completely derailed when she receives her diagnosis. After a bit of research, she convinces her foster dad that she wants to go live at Brightcliffe. It seems like a strange choice at first, leaving her loved ones behind to live with a bunch of strangers. But as you learn more about Brightcliffe and its history, Ilonka’s choice starts to make a lot more sense.