Spoilers don’t want to be members of any club that will have them.
Perhaps I am lowering my expectations. I’ve seen young adult book adaptation that were close to being a decent feature. I always thought that there were some that could do a little more of an effort. Perhaps I have too much expectations, or simply the YA genre can’t be relatable to older audiences. So, when I find one that actually grabs my attention, then it’s time to give credit where credit is due. I’m not saying it’s not flawed but this show had me watching from beginning to end.
The Midnight Club (2022) is created by Mike Flanagan and Leah Fong. It is based on the work of Christopher Pike. Diagnosed with thyroid cancer, Ilonka (Iman Benson) feels drawn to Brightcliffe, a hospice for young terminally ill patients run by Dr. Stanton (Heather Langenkamp). There she gets to meet patients Anya (Ruth Codd), Kevin (Igby Rigney), Spence (William Chris Sumpter), Sandra (Annarah Cymone), Cheri (Adia), Natsuki (Aya Furukawa) and Amesh (Sauriyan Sapkota). Despite their differences, Ilonka discovers they get together at night, to tell stories.
The stories themselves are part of it all, as more often than not they illustrate something about the storyteller. Despite that, there’s an overall theme and horror elements that ties everything together without ever betraying the main story, which is also full of added nuance due to the terminal illness that the entire cast faces. Here’s where the show, and I guess the source material, takes its biggest risk. It tackles the certainty of death. And the portrayal is messy, complicated and definitely problematic. Diversity here is native to the theme. Terminal illnesses do not discriminate nor care.
It’s not perfect, yet it is put to the screen and for that I give it props. This is at risk of being criticized a million times. It doesn’t always hit the mark but it keeps trying. It also does a better effort than most at backgrounds and cultures. We even have a religious character questioning her faith, something I know might divide audiences but it feels a lot closer to the real scenario than most are daring to put to film. Now it is flawed, and some things are more than a little rose-tinted and problematic. You’d want better portrayals on film that these, but there’s also been a lot worse.
The horror works. The main story has horror elements that are kept consistent and although they never mix with the main story. Now, as much as it deserves praise for that, it’s still firmly a young adult property and a lot of things seem to work better for the idealist characters than the pragmatic ones. You have to sit through scenes of youngsters telling off adults. Drama does go a little deeper than horror, but we do get enough mystery to keep fans of that genre interested.
Highly recommended with minor reservations. It does play the dramatic card, but I think it’s mostly done in a fair way. There’s some interactions in which we seem to be going for inner fortitude conquers all, and as a lot of YA properties do the parents are background characters that seem to have clocked out. However, our main cast is engaging and both the main story and the in-universe storytime have more than decent worldbuilding. Characters are also far more engaging than most young adaptations. Worth a watch.
That will do for now.