Mike Flanagan is the gift that keeps on giving for horror fans. From the early 2010s, he’s making media that’s been raising the bar for the horror genre as a whole. Some of his films, such as Hush (2016) and Gerald’s Game (2017), were projects that showed that there is a fine art to the horror genre – it’s not all just blood and guts. The film director then made his debut on Netflix in 2018 with The Haunting of Hill House. When he followed it up with the magnum opi The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020) and Midnight Mass (2021), Flanagan quickly turned into one of my favourite figures in modern horror. His brand new series The Midnight Club is coming out on October 7th. From the research I’ve done however, I get the feeling that this show will have a very different feel than Flanagan’s previous Netflix horror series. Why you ask? Well, allow me to explain.
Flanagan’s Bringing in Some Outside Help
Mike has directed all of his Netflix horrors to date, and done so quite well. I think audiences have grown quite found of his auteurship. His work always puts the characters at the forefront. This is clearly evident in everything from production design to choice in cinematography. Flanagan is a man who doesn’t mind putting the horror on the backburner in order to firmly establish his characters. Usually a slow filmmaking style like this is something that would drive me insane. I watch shows for the plots, not the people. But Flanagan really has a knack for making you care about the characters in his stories. From Hill House’s Luke and his battles with addiction, to Erin’s despair at living on Crockett Island in Midnight Mass, it’s easy to get invested in his works’ protagonists.
The Midnight Club may not feel the same as Flanagan’s other Netflix horrors however. Flanagan is only steering the helm for the first two episodes. After that, a staggering five other directors will be taking turns directing the show’s eight other instalments. There’s no question that involving multiple directors will detach this show from how Flanagan’s work usually feels. But just involving that many directors in the first place is a very interesting decision. Of course it’s likely the team will have some overarching commandments to abide by to ensure consistency. Even still, I don’t think I can understate how much of an impact even a single director can have a project. The episodes are likely to stand apart from each other more than we’re used to if made this way.
Honored to announce the other filmmakers helming eps of THE MIDNIGHT CLUB. Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, Axelle Carolyn, Viet Nguyen, Morgan Beggs, and my dear friend Michael Fimognari will all direct episodes. I'm grateful and lucky to collaborate with such terrific artists.
— Mike Flanagan (@flanaganfilm) June 13, 2021
Overall though, this may have been a wise decision. In this Netflix horror, the “Midnight Club” are to gather nightly to tell each other new ghost stories. Assume for a second that each episode might showcase a different horror story. Putting different directors in charge of directing separate episodes could be Flanagan’s way of making each story distinct. Firstly this makes sense from a narrative point of view. Different people are telling each story so they should all look and feel dissimilar. This could also serve as a means of distinguishing the content of each story. Promotional material teases that the group’s tales will be exploring different genres of horror, from gothic to sci-fi. In that case, it’s possible that each director is tackling a genre that they have experience in working with. This could really improve the final result in the long run.
This Netflix Horror May Have Some Interruptions
As I mentioned, a key element of The Midnight Club will be its protagonists sharing scary stories. The promotional and source material makes it clear that there will be plenty of these to go around. My own theory is we’re looking at a one-per-episode deal. If so however, this will vary a lot from all of Mike’s previous work. Both of the Haunting series and Midnight Mass have always had strict storylines for audiences to follow. While there may have been a flashback or two, there was always little distractions to the main plot. The Midnight Club however will have the task of maintaining a focus on an overarching narrative, all while repeatedly straying from it as the characters divulge short stories of their own.
I have complete faith in Flanagan and the team he has working with him on this project. As someone who has dabbled in storytelling and filmmaking however, I can tell you that juggling these short-horrors will prove to be challenge. The show’s source material did it right. But when adapting to a more visual medium this type of storytelling may not hold up. One obvious concern is that these tales might take up too much of the series. Suppose Flanagan manages to squeeze in eight ghost stories, and narrows them down to 10 minutes each. That still results in about an hour and a half of material that’s going to be interspersed in the ten hours the show has to work with. One way or another, this series will have a lot more interrupting segments than we’re used to in Flanagan’s work.
The Midnight Club Will Have Young Protagonists
Flanagan has thankfully been pretty good for diversity so far. He’s been including people of all age, race and colour in his shows for a while now, which is awesome. But something we’ve never seen from him is a show with all young protagonists. He has young people in all of his shows, sure. Having a horror show with only teenage protagonists however is a different kettle of fish.
The fact of the matter is there are unwritten rules about what you can and can’t do to kids in the horror genre. Why? Because we don’t like seeing bad things happen to young people. Or pets for that matter. Especially dogs. But I’m not just talking about violence here – the same goes for emotional/psychological suffering. Obviously countless movies and TV shows have ignored these rules before. A zombie ate a child once on The Walking Dead. Flanagan and co. could absolutely shock us by brutalising these kids. My point however, is that if these protagonists receive the standard horror treatment, it will be much more harrowing than we’re used to. I don’t care how heartless you are – nobody likes seeing a teenager in turmoil, fictional or not. They’re already a teenager for crying out loud, that’s punishment enough.
I get that having young people be subject to this cruelty is kind of the whole point of The Midnight Club. This Netflix series will likely be blunt about the harsh reality of dealing with a fatal prognosis. It’s wrong, unfair and unnatural – just like the idea of hurting young people in a horror. The title’s directors could actually end up steering into the skid with this. These kids could be brutalised to make sure the awfulness of their situation is be drilled home. Either way though, my point remains true – The Midnight Club is a Netflix horror dealing with youngsters. It’s likely going to be a bit more painful when bad things happen to Flanagan’s protagonists this time around.
This Netflix Horror Will Be Dark
This series should also have a greater sense of dread than we’re used to. It’s not about a family dealing with repressed issues like in Hill House. Likewise it’s not about the unrestrained cultism we saw in Midnight Mass. This is dying children we’re talking about here. It’s pretty obvious that The Midnight Club‘s primary themes will either be death, fear of dying, or both. Of course the show will have some positive moments,. But I wouldn’t be surprised if this show ends up as a metaphorical a staring contest with death itself. I for one am hoping death blinks first. Otherwise, The Midnight Club is going to be one rough Netflix horror series to watch.
Who Is Chris Pike, and Why That Matters
The Midnight Club source material comes from the mind of author Christopher Pike (not to be confused with the Star Trek captain of the same name). This by itself is nothing new, considering Flanagan has drawn from books in his other series. Pike’s work has been traditionally made for teenagers however. Flanagan’s source material isn’t this three thousand page epic aimed to terrify grown-ups. Rather, it’s a teen novel that you could probably finish in 3-4 sittings. My point isn’t that this makes for poor source material. I do believe though that trying to convert this into a visual series suitable for older audiences will be a challenge that may give this show a unique feel.
Flanagan drawing from Pike’s work could be seen as an asset however. At the end of the day, he is an experienced horror writer. From reading over his work to research this piece I’ve got to say that for a “teen” writer, some of Pike’s stuff is pretty brutal. And whatsmore, this an adaptation Flanagan has had his eyes on for years. In an interview with Vanity Fair it was revealed that he has even tried to fund the project himself before. This is something that Flanagan has been thinking and planning for a very long time. If he plays his cards right and can transfer the passion he has for the source material onto the screen, this could end up being his greatest series yet.
So… What Can We Expect?
I’m exactly sure what this new series is going to look like. However, I am confident that the factors I’ve mentioned above will contribute to making this series different to Flanagan’s earlier work. And from that, there are definitely certain things we can expect.
First and foremost, I think we can anticipate an exploration of darker themes. Combine this with the gripping source material from Pike and Flanagan’s adept hand at visual horror media, and we could have one of the most harrowing horror series we’ve seen on Netflix so far. Secondly, we can expect that this series is going to have a very unique feel. Between the changing directors and the interspersed ghost stories, there will be a range of genres of horror and filmmaking styles on display. The last thing I think you can expect is an emotionally impactful story. I have no doubt that seeing some of the teenagers dealing with their fatal prognoses isn’t going to be something any of us enjoy. And that may well be Flanagan’s intention. This doesn’t seem like a happy story, so don’t expect to come out of it smiling.
My biggest expectation however is that this series is going to be good. Flanagan is a talented man working with some powerful source material and a team of other brilliant directors. Realistically, he’s going to knock this out of the park. There are definitely going to be challenges in many aspects of the adaptation process. But I have full faith that him and his team can pull it off. Thank you all for reading, and remember – The Midnight Club convenes on October 7th in Netflix’s horror section. See you there!