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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘The Midnight Club’ On Netflix, About A Group Of Dying Teens Vowing To Reach Out From The Other Side

Mike Flanagan has become Netflix’s go to producer for scary shows, but he’s managed to do it while writing well-crafted stories with layered characters. His latest, based on a ’90s young adult novel, is yet another entry in Flanagan’s ever-growing catalogue of quality horror series.


Opening Shot: We see a suburban house in Sacramento, 1994. We then hear the voice of Ilonka (Iman Benson) writing her salutatorian speech for her high school graduation.

The Gist: Ilonka is set to go to Stanford, succeeding with a lot of support from her foster father Tim (Matt Biedel), who made a promise with Ilonka’s late mother to take care of her. But when she goes to a college party right before graduation, she not only sees the image of a decrepit old man in the mirror, she coughs up blood. She soon learns that she has thyroid cancer.

Months later, she’s gone through rounds of chemo and still tries to have a positive outlook, but she overhears her doctor tell Tim that the cancer has metastasized and become terminal. She searches Yahoo for ways to beat her cancer (remember: No Google in 1994) and stumbles upon the Brightcliffe Hospice, where it says teens can “transition on their own terms.” She also comes across an article about a girl who went to the hospice in the ’60s and her cancer miraculously disappeared.

The first person she meets at Brightcliffe is Kevin (Igby Rigney), and during her tour she gets a look at the other seven residents, including her very cynical roommate Anya (Ruth Codd). That night, she sees Anya leave the room in the middle of the night and follows her to the library. There, she sees the other residents around the table, drinking (or sniffing, depending on their meds) contraband wine and telling scary stories. When the group sees her there, they tentatively invite her in, but demand she tells a scary story.

She obliges by telling a semi-fictional version of the story about the girl whose cancer miraculously disappeared after she left the hospice for a period of time. That’s when the group tells her about the other thing the “Midnight Club” does: The first one of them who dies is supposed to reach out from the other side to tell them what, if anything, the afterlife is like.

The Midnight Club

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? The Midnight Club, based on Christopher Pike’s 1994 novel and some of his other characters, is produced by Mike Flanagan, who has become Netflix’s go to person for dark and scary shows, like Midnight Mass and The Haunting of Hill House. This is just as dark, and given the number of jump scares in the first episode (there are a lot), it promises to be just as scary.

Our Take: It takes a bit of time for The Midnight Club to get going, but once Ilonka finds that her fellow hospice patients are convening this club in the library, the series shows what makes Flanagan’s shows work so well. Yes, there is a lot of dark stuff, and yes, there are a lot of scary moments. But the characters and their backstories are always the primary goal for Flanagan and his writers, and we see that with Ilonka and her fellow Brightcliffe residents.

By the time Ilonka makes her way to Brightcliffe, we know more than enough about her to know that she’s overcome a lot, and even terminal cancer doesn’t feel like a sure death sentence to her, which is why she insisted on going to Brightcliffe. And we get just enough about the other residents to want to find out more, especially the constantly-lying Cheri (Adia), jump-scare addicted Natsuki (Aya Furukawa) and Spence (Chris Sumpter), who seems to share Flanagan’s view that jump scares are “lazy as fuck.”

The other part of the story that’s going to be interesting are the various stories that the residents tell throughout the season, as they all try to figure out just what death is all about. Those will all be able to be different and help the show break from what could be a relentlessly dark and grim reality. But it’ll be interesting to see which one of the group goes first and what the rest do to try to contact them in the afterlife.

Sex and Skin: None.

Parting Shot: After finding out from Kevin that he knows about the story of the resident who was cured, Ilonka walks down the hall to her room, and a creepy shadow follows her.

Sleeper Star: This is a good place to mention the rest of the cast: The religious Sandra (Annarah Cymone), former “new guy” Amesh (Sauriyan Sapkota), Dr. Georgina Stanton (Heather Langenkamp), who runs the hospice, and Mark (Zach Gilford), a nurse practitioner.

Most Pilot-y Line: Cheri is the only one who hasn’t told a story to the club. “I’m still editing; fixing it in post. That’s what my dad says all the time. He’s a famous movie producer.” Sounds like another lie from Cheri. But it seems that her entire existence is stories.

Our Call: STREAM IT. The Midnight Club continues Mike Flanagan’s ability to creep and scare the pants off viewers while building stories with great characters. The varied tones of the club’s stories should bring an interesting wrinkle to Flanagan’s usual dark and tense style.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon,,, Fast Company and elsewhere.