The Midnight Club Season 1 Review – A creative YA drama big on theme but short on terror

Season 1

Episode Guide

Episode 1 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 9 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 10 -| Review Score – 3/5


Stephen King is undoubtedly the king of horror, despite his more recent novels starting to wobble and lacking that same sharp edge his earlier work had. However, a new name has started to trickle into this domain, and that happens to be Mike Flanagan.

After the fantastic Haunting Of Hill House dropped on Netflix, many people praised the man’s ability to produce genuinely scary horror without relying on jump scares to keep the audience hooked. And they’d be right, Hill House was fantastic and one of the best seasons of horror out there.

Since then, Flanagan’s projects have been a bit more hit or miss, with both Bly Manor and Midnight Mass divisively splitting audiences and critics alike between those who love and those who dislike-but-don’t-quite-loathe the projects.

Both of these essentially put theme above story – for better or worse – with Bly Manor focusing on love and Mass centering on religion. Neither were particularly scary, although the horror was done in a slightly different way, with the latter relying very heavily on the horror of religious indoctrination. Some loved it, but others felt like it was needlessly drawn out. Myself being one of those people.

With the promise of no monologues and a return to the heart of Flanagan’s horror, The Midnight Club then is a strange medley of different influences – some of which work well and others not so much.

In essence, the story centers on the idea of death and facing one’s mortality, wrapped up in a series of different campfire stories and a diverse group of kids. Alongside these stories though is a mystery centering on Brightcliffe, a strange hospice that holds more than a few secrets inside.

The protagonist for this piece is Ilonka, who learns of a heartbreaking terminal diagnosis that gives her less than a year to live. Doing some research online, she discovers said hospice, catering exclusively for terminally ill young adults, along with reports online of a woman called Julia Jayne being healed of her cancer. As a result, she packs up her stuff and decides to stay in this big house with a number of other kids.

The first episode works incredibly well to set the scene and ease you into the horror to follow. Although horror may be doing a lot of heavy lifting there as, much like Midnight Mass and Bly Manor, there’s very little in the way of scares here.

Instead, what we get are a number of cautionary tales and bump-in-the-night segments that largely rely on jump scares, complete with a thumping bass drum to accentuate the segment. Remember when I said before about jump scares not being used much in Flanagan’s work? Well, this show is littered with them.

In fact, the first episode even meta references how they’re a cheap gimmick before proceeding to throw numerous instances over the course of the 10 episodes. To be fair, a few actually caught me off-guard (and they will likely do the same for you too) but given the subject matter of death and mortality, it feels like a missed opportunity that different types of horror aren’t explored.

Despite that, the actual story being told here has a solid set-up but the show doesn’t adequately pay any of this off, and at its worst, fails to characterize some of the kids too, making this somewhat of a missed opportunity.

The idea of these midnight gatherings and telling stories is certainly nothing new, after all Are You Afraid Of The Dark? did that perfectly back in the 90’s, and that actually had some pretty freaky episodes too. Step aside Pennywise, smoking clowns is where it’s at!

However, The Midnight Club focuses almost exclusively on three of the eight kids in this group – Kevin, Ilonka and Anya. The latter is easily the best character in the whole show but the amount of focus on these three takes away some of the intrigue with the others.

As an example, Spence is grappling a secret that has torn his family apart, but he doesn’t even get a chance to explore that until episode 9. Meanwhile, Cheri has a strange past…and that’s it. It’s never explored. Meanwhile, Natsuki feels the weight of loss with her mother but again, it’s not really given the time to be explored.

Despite those gripes though, the show does have some redeeming features. It’s clearly tailored for a YA audience and there are some nice little twists late on, alongside an overarching theme about death and facing one’s mortality which is beautifully explored. It’s certainly worth a watch and it’s creative enough to stick with until the end.

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  • Verdict - 6.5/10

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