It’s finally October, and spooky season is shifting into its annual renaissance period, as more and more horror content continues to grace our screen. While it’s an exciting time to be a horror fan, it can also be a bit intimidating for those of us who want to be included, but are just a bit too easily frightened.
Last year, Paste’s TV editor Allison Keene wrote a horror guide for chickens to help prepare for Mike Flanagan’s previous work Midnight Mass. Since we’re blessed yet again with another terrifying Flanagan series for Netflix, it only makes sense to continue the tradition and ensure that our fellow scaredy-cats aren’t getting in over their heads with his latest horror series, The Midnight Club.
Based on Christopher Pike’s novel of the same name, The Midnight Club follows a group of eight terminally ill teenagers residing at Brightcliffe Hospice, who meet in the library every night at midnight to exchange scary stories. They also share a pact promising that whoever dies first is responsible for communicating with the rest of them beyond the grave. Meanwhile, Brightcliffe itself contains a multitude of haunting mysteries and secrets from the past that won’t seem to leave the protagonists alone as they deal with their illnesses, their fears, and everything in between.
In terms of scares, The Midnight Club feels milder than Flanagan’s previous works given its YA focus. The series is more of a coming-of-age story with elements of horror, thriller, and mystery layered on top as a way to tackle the darker, more serious themes of mortality from the eyes of teenagers. Even so, it still contains an air of levity that I found similar to the scare levels brought by Netflix’s Fear Street movies, which center more on making horror and the feeling of being scared fun rather than disturbing. The story-within-a-story format allows The Midnight Club to explore a variety of genres within the narrative itself—from David Fincher-esque thriller to 1940s film noir—that expand the viewing experience into one that is less unsettling.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the show isn’t scary. Much of The Midnight Club’s fear factor comes from leaning heavily into the mystery elements of classic horror tropes, which includes (but is not limited to): having the characters poke around in dark places they aren’t supposed to be in, unnerving flashbacks and visions of supernatural beings, and a general fear of the unknown. The first episode alone has a total of 21 (!!!) jumpscares, setting the Guinness world record for most jumpscares in one episode of television, and there are a variety of ghosts and shadowy presences haunting the screen throughout each of the episodes that contribute to show’s spookiness.
The Midnight Club is overall a bearable experience for those who are just dipping into the world of horror. The jumpscares are spooky enough to get you excited and keep you on your toes, but not too startling as to disturb your peace. It might actually be the best first watch for those unfamiliar with the rest of Flanagan’s work, as you will definitely be able to slowly inch your way up to his more daunting shows (I’m looking at you, Hill House). My advice for the ultimate scaredy-cats would be to perhaps watch the first couple episodes of The Midnight Club during the day as to test your horror abilities (though I’m fairly certain you will do much better than you think!).
The Midnight Club is now streaming on Netflix.
Dianna Shen is an entertainment writer based in New York. When she’s not crying over a rom-com, she can be found on Twitter @ddiannashen.
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