Netflix’s The Midnight Club might convert a new generation into horror buffs

In the mid 1990s, America’s children were gripped by Goosebumps fever. These entry-level horror novels were written by R.L. These entry-level horror novels, which were no more than 150 pages long, were written by R.L.

Two years after publication of the first Goosebumps book (1992’s Welcome to Dead House) and roughly concurrently with such Stine titles as Phantom of the Auditorium, Attack of the Mutant, Night in Terror Tower Christopher Pike published his YA novel. The Midnight Club, which marks a sharp contrast to Stine’s intentionally cheap thrills. Pike’s book, which concerns the late-night storytelling rituals of a clique of adolescent hospice patients, is low on incident, high on rumination over the meaning of life and death, and crushingly sad. The book depicts the stages of grief that a small group of terminally ill young people experience. It is a vivid and emotional portrayal of these stages. Importantly, the book can be read comfortably in half of the time that the new 10-hour Netflix version, which is directed by Mike Flanagan (house stylist) Haunting of Bly Manor co-producer, Leah Fong. Perhaps surprisingly to fans of the book, however, despite frequent narrative fidelity, the tone of Flanagan and Fong’s Midnight Club R.L. is much closer. Stine is far closer to R.L.

The Midnight Club Ilonka (Iman Benjaminson) is a cancer patient who recently arrived at Brightcliffe, which is a youth hospice located in a creaking seaside home. Before long, Ilonka has been welcomed into the titular pseudo-secret society of nocturnal storytellers made up of a handful of other patients — Flanagan and Fong expand Pike’s five-person ensemble with an additional three club members — including Kevin (Igby Rigney), with whom she immediately falls into the sort of tragic love on which YA weepies thrive.

The group’s habit of gathering at midnight in the hospice library to sit by the fire exchanging spooky stories is granted tacit approval by staff members, including nurse practitioner Mark (Zach Gilford, returning to the Flanagan repertory after starring in 2021 Netflix hit Midnight Mass) and head honcho Dr. Stanton (Nightmare on Elm Street Heather Langenkamp, alum. Ilonka, though, is far from content to accept her prognosis and begins a frantic search for anything that might promise to extend her life, a quest that will lead herself and her friends into the dangerous and potentially supernatural web that is Brightcliffe’s past.

Photo: Eike Schroter/Netflix

As detailed in a recent Vanity Fair profile on the show’s production, Flanagan has long hoped to adapt Pike’s novel, even flirting with attempting to shoot it as his debut feature. The creators felt obliged to add more narrative grist to the story in order to adapt it to streaming. There is no indication that this is an ongoing series. The series is both highly faithful to the book and completely at odds with it. To comprehensively detail the creators’ additions would require more words than this review is allotted, but suffice it to say viewers of The Midnight Club will be treated to ghostly visions suggesting a haunted Brightcliffe, portentous nightmares foretelling a grisly fate for the club’s members, a buried backstory involving a mysterious former patient, and frequent intimations of another even-more-secret society complete with a signature symbol found on various meaningful objects/characters’ bodies.

Only one of these imagined narrative threads leads anywhere during the first season. The others are largely teased right until the end of the cliffhanging reveals. The relevant storyline concerns a prior generation’s Brightcliffe patient who, like Ilonka, refused to accept the inevitability of her demise. To say too much about this plot line, which consists of fairly brazen breadcrumbs all leading to a series of reveals that are unlikely to shock any savvy viewer, would risk spoiling the show’s true narrative spine. The fact that the only spoilerable part of the show is one created entirely for the screen shows how awkwardly these new threads have been woven into the series. The story of Ilonka’s investigation into Brightcliffe’s most notable former patient takes place largely away from the purview of the other characters, meaning she is able to essentially step from one story into a separate, entirely original TV show, one that only reintegrates in time for a climax of spectacular hysteria that makes the core setup of a bunch of sick kids supporting one another through storytelling seem abruptly quaint.

It’s a thick and heady bouillabaisse, and that’s before even considering the series’ framework: As the Midnight Club gathers to tell their stories, we see those stories brought to life in episodes-within-episodes that also happen to star members of the main ensemble. Thus, The Midnight Club The series is actually an anthology, with the characters using their imaginations to deal with their sorrows and fears. Flanagan and Fong decided to adapt the stories Pike wrote for the novel. The Wicked Heart and the same year’s spectral Road to Nowhere) ostensibly as the work of these young storytellers.

A Midnight Club character sitting on the ground looking very startled at something off-camera; he’s sitting on the street of a suburban cul de sac

Photo: Eike Schroter/Netflix

Ilonka kneeling with a friend in the lit elevator behind her. She is holding a match and looking at a pattern on the ground of a dark basement room.

Photo: Eike Schroter/Netflix

Club member Spence (Chris Sumpter), speaks at one meeting about the differences between It is amazing Scary: “Anyone can bang pots and pans behind someone’s head. That’s not scary, it’s just startling, and it’s lazy as fuck.” It’s a bold pronouncement, clearly meant to be taken as a statement of purpose from the show’s creators, but Flanagan and Fong can’t quite manage to stick to their own stated values. The club’s stories are suffused with cheap jolts, more reminiscent of haunted house rides than genuine get-under-your-skin horror. Only one, Kevin’s serialized telling of The Wicked Heart, which stretches the surprisingly grisly tale of a teenage thrill killer across several episodes, lingers for long after the credits have rolled, while others (notably Spence’s sci-fi yarn about a time-bending VHS tape) seem designed to evaporate as soon as they’ve unspooled. In one case, a story — the adaptation of Road to Nowhere which features a particularly welcome guest appearance from a longtime Flanagan collaborator — overtakes the majority of the episode, and it represents the writers’ most robust effort to externalize a character’s inner turmoil through storytelling. But it leads only to a maudlin climax that’s quickly swept aside in favor of returning to the pressing business of finding more mysterious symbols where they should not be.

There seems to be some essential gulf in verisimilitude in Flanagan and Fong’s approach to The Midnight Club. The series’ world is lush and immersive, which will come as no surprise to the many fans of the prolific Flanagan, but the characters inhabiting it can’t seem to sink into their environs. These young actors can wear as much makeup as they like, but they still come across as too strong and happy to sell their dire circumstances. The emotional underpinnings are similarly undercut by a reliance on platitude — staff members are frequently found reminding their patients that, reAlly, we’re all dying (it’s never fully acknowledged quite what cold comfort this would likely provide), while one climactic emotional peak is accompanied by the slogan-worthy “Dying is a really shitty reason not to live.” It may be that a mercilessly realistic vision of terminal illness in young people would prove too alienating a prospect for a Netflix YA audience, but the softened edges constitute a breach in the show’s realism, offering creature comforts at the expense of a feeling of truthfulness.

By no means do all of Flanagan and Fong’s additions work to the show’s detriment. As with Flanagan’s previous Netflix projects, each member of the ensemble is granted ample shading of character, which comes to most powerful effect in the stories of the two gay characters (double the number featured in Pike’s novel), whose lifestyles are far richer and more nuanced than their equivalents were afforded in the story’s original iteration. The invented characters are drawn with appealing wit and personality, each of them fitting comfortably into the margins of Ilonka and Kevin’s doomed love story. Flanagan is an unquestionably talented craftsman who seems so far incapable of making anything outright terrible (though some viewers of 2019 may disagree). Shining Continuation Doctor Sleep This assessment might be disputed by some.

This was the same time last year. Midnight Mass proved something of a word-of-mouth sensation for Netflix, and though there was a tendency to gripe over the show’s density of stagey monologue — the absence of which in The Midnight Club proved headline-worthy — it’s a remarkably self-assured and tonally consistent work, telling a taut story with attention evenly spread across a sprawling ensemble, all of it culminating in a shocking yet retrospectively inevitable denouement. It’s perhaps unfair to judge Flanagan’s newest series against the standard of such a wildly different story, one spun for audiences a decade or two older than the ideal Midnight Club viewer. This new project, at least visually and tonally, is quite snug compared to other hauntings Flanagan created for Netflix. The Midnight Club’s fumbled attempts at world-building stick out like the unsuccessful tracks on a familiar band’s new album.

The series may have been created for a different audience, so a mixup of The Fault in our Stars Nickelodeon’s mainstay Are You Afraid Of The Dark? It could prove to be a winning formula with the target audience of teens (or even preteens), who will be well-served by the Flanagan/Netflix partnership’s thoroughly polished aesthetic gears, as well as the familiar jump scares sure to pass a Friday night in October. In the best case scenario, this study in literary adaptation could be useful as analytical material for a budding media analyst. It doesn’t take much conscious thought to detect that The Midnight Club It is a strange object. Investigating how and why Pike’s novel could end up looking like Flanagan and Fong’s series might prove even more enlightening than Ilonka’s plunge into the depths of Brightcliffe’s shadowy past.

The Midnight Club Netflix now has it streaming.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *