A Beautiful and Haunting Ode to the Art of Storytelling

Mike Flanagan has established himself as one of the best horror writers of our time. Like his original horror movies oculus and silence Rising above just stereotypical jump-scares and its adaptation of Gerald’s game took a StephenKing Book that many claimed was impossible to film and went on to become one of the scariest horror movies of the 21st century. Even Flanagan’s foray into franchise films with the prequel Ouija: Origin of Evil and The glow Consequence doctor sleep proved that he is a master of the genre. It’s like his television projects The Haunting of Hill House and last year midnight fair these are perhaps just his crowning achievements. hill house was Flanagan’s exploration of the stages of grief and its aftermath, The Haunting of Bly Manor, delved into themes of love; in the meantime, midnight fair left Flanagan wrestling with religion, drawing on his own upbringing in the Catholic Church. Flanagan’s latest series, The Midnight Clubis perhaps his most emotional outing yet, as it juggles themes not only around the art of storytelling, but also around the end of life and the very human dread of what comes next.

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Based on the YA novel of the same name by Christopher Pike, The Midnight Club plays in the 90s and starts with Ilonka (Iman Benson), a top-notch high school graduate who is on her way to enroll at Stanford University in the fall. In a cruel perversion of faith, Ilonka is diagnosed with thyroid cancer, forcing her to put her plans for an Ivy League education on hold, and when her cancer is declared terminal, she decides to stay at Brightcliffe, a hospice for teenagers , written by Dr Georgina Stanton (Heide Langenkamp). There Ilonka meets the other patients, Natsuki (Aya Furukawa), Spencer (Chris Sumpter), Kevin (Igby Rigney), Cheri (Adia), A net (Sauryan Sapkota), Sandra (Annara Cymone) and Anya (Ruth Codd), each with its own specific diagnosis and uncertainty. While sneaking through the corridors at night, Ilonka finds the other patients in the library telling ghost stories and calling themselves the Midnight Club. After Ilonka gains the trust of the others, we realize that the stories being told are not pure fiction as each story comes from the teenagers’ own lives and struggles.

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Some may see it at first glance The Midnight Club as a more mature and edgier version of Are you afraid of the dark? due to the nocturnal setting, the stories drawing from the storytellers’ own lives, and the young protagonists – but the similarities stop there. While the characters at the heart of Midnight Club are younger than the protagonists of many of Flanagan’s other works, the series is no less mature. When we are first introduced to the titular group in the first episode, Natsuki is about to tell a story but ends up debating with Spencer about jump scares, with Spencer lamenting that startled doesn’t mean the same as scared. Through these characters and in these moments, Flanagan opens up to the audience how he writes his stories, and fans of his earlier works will be able to read this commentary.

Flanagan and co-showrunners Leah Fong turn out to be perfect voices for this kind of series. While the supernatural forces consistently pose a threat The Midnight Club, it’s the illnesses every teenager suffers from and the baggage everyone carries that not only poses the greatest sense of danger but also keeps the audience engaged. At a time when many YA attributes are romanticizing real-life illness, The Midnight Club renounces it. Yes, there are romantic moments, but you can feel the connection between these characters, and it’s never unnatural. This is why the show’s emotional beats are so effective. Flanagan and Fong explore themes of sexuality, mental illness and grief with the delicacy it deserves. There have been many times where other films and shows have attempted to address these issues but ultimately feel manipulative and disingenuous; that is not the case here.

The very human fear of the unknown and what comes after death is another big theme that runs through The Midnight Club. When delving into the concept of the afterlife, it can be easy to feel preached both ways, but much like he did midnight fair, Flanagan is one of the most knowledgeable writers out there when it comes to discussions of faith. It never preaches, nor will it alienate its audience, Flanagan writes in a way that these concepts are never just black and white. It’s introspective, powerful, and stays with you long after the finale.

The entire cast of The Midnight Club delivers impressive work, but it’s Ruth Codd’s devastating role as Anya that makes the biggest impression. When we first meet Anya, Codd portrays her as withdrawn and snarky, a teenage girl with a sailor’s mouth, of course there’s more to her than meets the eye. As the series progresses, we begin to learn more about and really understand Anya, and Codd pulls it off beautifully. As Ilonka, Iman Benson delivers an exceptional work, she is perfect in a role that the series itself more than meets the eye. Even at Ilonka’s weakest moments, Benson brings so much humanity to the role that it’s impossible not to have feelings for her. Sandra, the most religious of teenagers, is never morose or monotonous; Annarah Cymone plays her character with understanding and care, and her scenes with Chris Sumpter’s Spencer are among the most powerful on the show.

Unlike Flanagan’s other series, The Midnight Club isn’t as open and closed in its story, and with the concepts at play here, it might have been a bit more effective and overall satisfying if it felt more complete. There are a few directions a second installment could go, but it could only go so far – although if anyone can pull it off, it would be Flanagan and Fong.

The Midnight Club is another powerful and excellent series from Mike Flanagan and Netflix that pushes the author to explore both familiar and new territory, and longtime fans will surely be pleased with the end result.

Valuation: A-

All 10 episodes of The Midnight Club are now available to stream on Netflix.

https://collider.com/the-midnight-club-review-mike-flanagan-netflix/ A Beautiful and Haunting Ode to the Art of Storytelling

Sarah Ridley

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