The Midnight Club season 1 review – another heartfelt horror to binge

By Adam Lock
Published: October 7, 2022 (Last updated: January 26, 2024)
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Mike Flanagan and Netflix have another readymade hit in the bag with this gut-wrenching teen horror series. The Midnight Club supplies the scares and the feels with horrifying visuals and a detailed backstory. Dare I say, this might be the ideal successor to Netflix’s golden child, Stranger Things?

This review of the Netflix series The Midnight Club season 1 does not contain spoilers.

Mike Flanagan produced one of the scariest TV shows of all time back in 2018 with The Haunting of Hill House. That stunning Netflix original series somehow managed to scare viewers half to death and bring them to tears, all within the same storyline. Flanagan tries to recreate that same precarious balancing act in Netflix’s The Midnight Club, which is possibly his best effort since that incredible TV debut. His latest offering is an adaptation of the nineties teen horror novel of the same name by Christopher Pike, about a group of terminally ill adolescents who meet at the stroke of midnight to tell one another ghost stories, but as with all Flanagan projects, there is plenty more at play.

The opening episode introduces us to our leading lady, A-Grade student Ilonka (Iman Benson). She has big dreams for what looks set to be a bright future, but these plans are all put on hold when she receives a devastating diagnosis. Ilonka tackles all things in life with logic and reasoning, so when she hears that her thyroid cancer is terminal, the student goes online to research her survival rate. Here she finds information about Brightcliffe hospice and the miracle story of Julia Jayne, who may have been cured of her cancer at this very place. Ilonka journeys to this hospice to find out for herself if the fable is true.

On arrival at the hospice, Ilonka is introduced to her fellow patients and the welcoming staff members at Brightcliffe. The hospice is ran by Dr. Stanton (Heather Langenkamp) and Flanagan regular Zach Gilford (Midnight Mass) plays the onsite nurse Mark. Each patient has their own distinct character traits and they all deal with their dilapidating diseases in different ways. As the series unfolds, these teens become familiar faces and their growing camaraderie will really pull at your heartstrings. Flanagan and co-creator Leah Fong (The Haunting of Bly Manor) do a great job of shaping the Midnight Club members into well-rounded and likeable friends, who you can’t help but root for.

Ilonka soon discovers that these brave teens meet in the old library every night to swap ghost stories, following a tradition that goes back decades. Each episode is framed by one of these tales that specifically relates to what the narrator is currently going through. It’s a great setup, you have the mystery unravelling before your very eyes in the present, alongside these reflective ghost story, that add another layer to our character’s backstories. The stories represent multiple genres, analyzing the character’s hopes and fears in a subtle fashion. This is a clever hook that makes this series entirely unique, whilst dishing out more of the scares.

And talking of scares, The Midnight Club can be downright frightening at times. This is a show to watch at night with the lights off – trust me. Mike Flanagan peppers the earlier episodes with well-timed jump scares and then slowly ratchets up the tension as we head towards the finale. The teens have horrifying nightmares at Brightcliffe and there are some rather strange activities going on in this historic building too. Throw in a cryptic cult and the Midnight Club’s very own spooky pact and you have all the ingredients for a Halloween treat.

Flanagan expertly plants these jump scares and builds the tension throughout, causing no end of goose-bump-inducing moments that will get your heart racing. But he’s also here to deliver the feels as well. A story about teens dying long before their time, trying everything and anything to survive, is bound to get you in the gut, and it really does. The creators masterfully address the patients’ strong desires to live in a raw and down-to-earth manner. Death is discussed in a very human way at Brightcliffe, with authentic responses from the teens themselves. This isn’t a gimmick or a manipulative ploy, but a key part to the narrative.

The filmmakers know exactly when to bring out the horror tropes and when to hold them back. It’s a tricky maneuver, but they manage to strike the right balance. Flanagan seemingly catching lightning in a bottle once again with this visually stunning teen horror. This is a world that you won’t want to leave, featuring characters that you will grow to love and an addictive storyline you’ll just have to see through until the bitter end. Another hit from the horror maestro himself that could easily become the next Stranger Things for Netflix.

What did you think of Netflix’s The Midnight Club season 1? Comment below.

You can watch this series with a subscription to Netflix.

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