The Pitch: High school senior Ilonka (Iman Benson) has her whole life in front of her, which won’t be long. When she’s diagnosed with terminal cancer, and her doctors say the treatment isn’t working, she decides to spend her remaining days at Brightcliffe, a hospice care center for dying teens, where all the tenants are wrestling with their mortality while trying to enjoy however much time they have left.
But all is not as it appears at Brightcliffe, which at one point was home to a mysterious cult, and where every night the youths meet in the library to tell terrifying stories. Ilonka joins this “Midnight Club” and in this adaptation of a whole bunch of stories by Christopher Pike, soon reveals to them that she has secrets of her own, a special reason for coming to Brightcliffe, and a plan which could save one or all of their lives.
Who the Heck is Christopher Pike? No, he’s not the first captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. That’s the pen name of author Kevin McFadden, who has written dozens of popular horror and thriller novels for YA audiences (and yes, he took that name as an homage to the first captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise).
Although his contemporary, R.L. Stine, has been adapted to film and television many times over the last few decades, the Netflix series The Midnight Club is the most prominent adaptation of any of Pike’s novels, after the TV movie Fall Into Darkness in 1996 and the short-lived series Spooksville from the early 2010s.
Producers Mike Flanagan and Leah Fong, who previously collaborated on the hit Netflix horror series The Haunting of Bly Manor, seem determined to make up for lost time. The Midnight Club is actually a lot of Pike adaptations hidden within another Pike adaptation, because the stories the “Midnight Club” tell each other — and which the show’s cast act out, like a group of repertory players — are loosely adapted from the author’s other works.
The best part of The Midnight Club is the way the scripts cleverly manipulate Pike’s tales to illuminate the inner words of the Midnight Club’s members, as they reveal hidden secrets, uncomfortable anxieties, and unexpected glimmers of hope through each violent, bizarre tale they tell. This is the rare anthology horror series where the framing device for the short stories is as good, if not better, than the tales themselves.