By Mike Vogelsang | December 5, 2022
“The Midnight Club” is the fourth and most recent Horror show created by modern horror master, Mike Flanagan, for Netflix. His previous works, “The Haunting of Hill House,” “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” and “Midnight Mass” created high expectations for this recent addition to his catalog. The haunting shows he spearheaded are both masterpieces and some of the greatest pieces of horror and drama you can find out there. His follow up in “Midnight Mass” was a bit disappointing, and even boring at times, but was still a worthwhile watch with a great finale. My hopes were unbelievably high for another show from this visionary creator; but unfortunately, that may have been my undoing.
“The Midnight Club” still has moments that shine as brightly as his previous achievements, but the overall package falls flat in its execution. The story is set in the mid-90s and follows terminally ill teenagers living with cancer, aids and other diseases in a hospice known as Brightcliffe Manor. The group of friends form the midnight club, and meet every night to tell scary stories, and look for supernatural signs from those who were in their place that have passed on. To state the obvious to anyone who has watched anything Mike Flanagan has been involved in; the acting, writing, camerawork, and characters are all fantastic.
Every character, even the few minor characters, are all well defined with differing world views that creates compelling drama among the diverse cast. All of the young actors do a wonderful job, which is impressive considering each of them have very few acting credits under their belt. The owner and doctor of Brightcliffe is played by horror legend Heather Langenkamp of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” fame who plays a caring, yet mysterious maternal figure for our midnight club. The show carries Mike Flanagan’s signature style, which is to say it is very slow. However, while the pacing could have used some work, the show is at its best when it focuses on the characters, how they interact with each other, and how they grow and navigate life knowing that theirs will be unfairly cut short. There are several heartbreaking monologues and discussions about death and how much they want to live a full life while knowing they will soon die. That’s where Mike Flanagan’s impeccable writing shines the brightest.
Another great thing this show has to offer is the horror short stories the audience gets to be a part of in every single episode. Each character tells a story and continues to narrate over it while their words are brought to life, showing the versatility of the promising young actors. Each story, while having tremendous amounts of entertainment value, sprinkles in character moments of the person telling the story, helping the audience to learn about why they are in hospice, or about the traumatic events from their past. The creativity of these stories brilliantly weaved different genres of horror, character moments, and intriguing character development together.
The show is not perfect, however, as it has two glaring issues that keeps it from reaching the heights of Flanagan’s previous work. There is not much action or jumpscares, as the characters and their dialogue are the main focus. While this is by no means a deal breaker, it is something to take note of as this show is a slow burn, and emphasizes a build up of tension throughout. However, that build up is what leads to the show's most prominent issue.
The finale of “The Midnight Club” is underwhelming and very anticlimactic to the tension that is built up throughout the first nine episodes. It works well on a story and character level, but it does not feel like the tension or supernatural elements are adequately explained, explored or overcome in a satisfying way. If the story didn’t set up a mystery that the audience wanted to see solved in both a gratifying and entertaining way, then the finale would have been more well received by critics and, especially, fans. The conclusion has its powerful moments with its well written characters, many of whom have compelling full arcs by the end, but the payoff for the tension seemed like an afterthought. I do think that characters can take center stage over the story in certain circumstances, but Mike Flanagan set up an interesting story that could have gone in many different directions. Instead, the story’s climax was boring, brief, and predictable.
“The Midnight Club” is an immaculately crafted and interesting, but frustrating show that will still satisfy horror and Mike Flanagan fans, but likely leave them with something to be desired. The show is so close to greatness and has many great aspects, but just couldn’t stick the landing, which hasn’t been a problem in Flanagan’s previous work. Hopefully this is a misstep and does not become a habit in his many already confirmed future projects.
“The Midnight Club” rating: 7/10
The Midnight Club is now streaming on Netflix.