Ilonka (Iman Benson) establishing herself as a member of the Midnight Club
"Ilonka (Iman Benson) establishing herself as a member of the Midnight Club," The Midnight Club, "The Final; Chapter," directed by Mike Flanagan, 2022, (Netflix)

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“The Midnight Club” is a sluggish watch with predictable jump scares and while it could get better, it makes a paltry effort to convince you to stay.

Aired (Netflix) 10/7/2022
Created or Developed By Leah Fong and Mike Flanagan
Based On “The Midnight Club” by Christopher Pike
Executive Produced By Mike Flanagan, Leah Fong, Trevor Macy, Julia Bicknell, Christopher Pike
Director(s) Mike Flanagan
Writer(s) Mike Flanagan and Leah Fong
Genre Drama, Horror, Romance, Young Adult
Introduced This Episode
Ilonka Iman Benson
Tim Matt Biedel
Georgina Staton Heather Langenkamp
Spense William Chris Sumpter
Anya Ruth Codd
Kevin Igby Rigney
Amesh  Sauriyan Sapkota
Sandra Annarah Cymone
Cheri Adia
Natsuki Aya Furukawa

This content contains pertinent spoilers.

Summary

It’s 1994, and before she can go to Stanford as an English major and set the course to fulfill her dreams of being the next Mary Shelley, the writer of “Frankenstein,” Ilonka learns she has thyroid cancer. Then, to make matters worse, it metastasizes in her lungs by her 18th birthday, and she is noted to be terminal. The news hits her, and her foster dad, Tim, hard, but with that comes Ilonka using the internet to find Brightcliffe Hospice. Run by Dr. Georgina Staton for decades, in honor of her son, Julian, who died of cancer, she gives teens and young adults the dignity of dying with some realm of freedom.

Tim, initially, isn’t for the idea of Ilonka going to Brightcliffe, for he wants to continue the fight. However, Dr. Staton’s speech about using war terms when speaking of cancer leads her to introduce the idea that she wants to give young people, like Ilonka, the permission they need to leave the battlefield and enjoy what time they have left.

Georgina Staton (Heather Langenkamp) explaining her philosphy for her hospice
“Georgina Staton (Heather Langenkamp) explaining her philosophy for her hospice,” The Midnight Club, “The Final; Chapter,” directed by Mike Flanagan, 2022, (Netflix)

So with that, Ilonka joins Spense, Anya, Kevin, Amesh, Sandra, Cheri, and Natsuki. Currently, the “seniors” there are Anya and Sandra, two total opposites as Sandra is nice and religious, and Anya seems like a forgotten member of the Sex Pistols. As for everyone else? They’re nice. Amesh is the last new kid, Spense is cool, Kevin is a potential love interest for Ilonka, Cheri is a pathological liar who seems nice enough, and Natsuki is chill.

But, to keep life interesting, the residents of Brightcliffe Hospice maintain what is known as “The Midnight Club.” It is when each tells stories, usually of a horror nature, unless you are Sandra, at midnight, with a drink if they can find it. But beyond bonding over stories and alcohol, part of being in the club calls for telling what’s beyond this life and part of the next. And with Ilonka following Anya to the basement, where the club meets, she joins and delivers her first story about a former member of Brightcliffe who didn’t leave in a body bag but walked out, cancer free.

Things To Note

Collected Quote(s) & .Gifs

Spence (William Chris Sumpter) being told he will be Ilonka's peer mentor
“Spence (William Chris Sumpter) being told he will be Ilonka’s peer mentor,” The Midnight Club, “The Final; Chapter,” directed by Mike Flanagan, 2022, (Netflix)

Startled isn’t the same as scared.
— Spence

Review

Low Points

Cheap Jump Scares

Natsuki (Aya Furukawa) telling a story
“Natsuki (Aya Furukawa) telling a story,” The Midnight Club, “The Final; Chapter,” directed by Mike Flanagan, 2022, (Netflix)

Throughout the first episode of “The Midnight Club,” there are jump scares, but, as Spense notes when criticizing Natsuki’s story, what is provided are more startling moments than actual scares. In fact, if you are coming for a good late-night watch, “The Midnight Club” doesn’t deliver in its first episode. Yes, there is a creepy old woman and potentially disturbing imagery, but after a while, you get adjusted to the point of scares feeling as normal as Anya being a grouch.

The Pacing

The episode may only be an hour, but it feels like more since there isn’t the rush of a thriller involved. It wants to go into Ilonka going from someone with a bright future to getting a terminal diagnosis. Then introduce all the cast members, one by one, with diagnosis and enough for you to get a feel for who they are. Which is fine, but with Spense breaking each one down by diagnosis and one character trait, there is this checklist feeling which doesn’t necessarily make you want to get to know more about anyone.

I’d even say, for Cheri, who lies incessantly, there isn’t much of a desire to find out why or the truth. You are just slugging along, hoping something can pique your curiosity, and nothing shows up outside of maybe Ilonka and Kevin becoming a thing.

On The Fence

While Not Terrible, It Isn’t A Must See

Anya (Ruth Codd) being her usual gruff self
“Anya (Ruth Codd) being her usual gruff self,” The Midnight Club, “The Final; Chapter,” directed by Mike Flanagan, 2022, (Netflix)

“The Midnight Club” lacks a notable hook. Yes, Anya being a cruel Brit has entertainment value. Having someone like Sandra, a religious young adult, feels very rare in modern times. But, with her being made fun of for it and coming off as a joke, it doesn’t hit with the strength it could have. And then, when it comes to everyone else, you have to appreciate the diversity, but it isn’t like they are bringing something besides names and appearances to make them appear different.

With that said, it isn’t like “The Midnight Club” lacks potential. As noted, each person could tell a story that has a different theme or tone. If Sandra does angel porn and Natsuki loves a good jump scare, who is to say everyone won’t take on a different sub-genre of horror and give you something new and different? But, as noted in the overall, no show, especially one available to binge-watch, should assume you’ll be hooked because you watch part or all of episode one. There is far too much competition out there for being average or mediocre. Especially when your episodes are long, and approximately ten hours.

So hopefully, “The Midnight Club” can figure a way to recover from a lackluster premiere that gives you very little reason to not watch the dozens upon dozen of other shows or movies that came out this weekend.

Ilonka (Iman Benson) establishing herself as a member of the Midnight Club
The Midnight Club: Season 1/ Episode 1 “The Final Chapter” [Premiere] – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)
Overall
No show, which drops its entire season in one shot, should be given the grace to get better after watching two to three episodes. That is reserved for those who want to give you a week to ruminate over what you saw. For shows meant to be binge-watched, you should be able to sell yourself from the get-go and come off like a 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, or more part movie. Which “The Midnight Club” has the pacing of, but doesn’t have that special something that calls on you to finish this before the weekend is out. If anything, it’s the type of show that seems worth shelving for now and revisiting when you are bored, and you’re in that rare period where there is nothing else to watch.
Highlights
Disputable
While Not Terrible, It Isn’t A Must See
The Pacing
Cheap Jump Scares
73

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