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Teen Horror Show, The Midnight Club

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Teen Horror Show, The Midnight Club

He same is true of “The Midnight Club,” which Flanagan and Leah Fong co-wrote based on YA author Christopher Pike’s work. Iman Benson plays Ilonka, a college-bound high school valedictorian who learns that she has terminal illness in this movie.

Although his previous series for the streamer, such as “Midnight Mass” and “The Haunting of Hill House,” have been of varying quality overall and from episode to episode, they are consistently interesting. In recent years, Mike Flanagan has distinguished himself as one of Netflix’s signature creators and as a generational figure in the horror genre. Perhaps more than it should, his openness to discuss ideas with his fears makes him stand out.

Ilonka is a standout student and an optimist; she investigates Brightcliffe, a hospice that her foster father may take her to, and she secretly harbours the hope that there will be a miraculous treatment for her.

The first thing she discovers is a group of sick teenagers who assemble at midnight to tell terrifying stories. They all share a morbid nihilism and a feeling of indulgent enjoyment in the possibility that things could be worse: they may be engaged in battle with cosmic forces of evil.

It shouldn’t be shocking that boundaries start to blur and that jump scares make the hospice appear like a doorway to more than simply youthful fantasy. Say this much, though: The tales are masterfully handled, evoking a genuine fear that is both apart from and inexorably entwined with the struggles of these young people.

Benson is exceptional; other standouts in the cast include Ruth Codd as an Irish immigrant with a prickly exterior concealing vulnerabilities and Chris Sumpter as an HIV-positive teen forced to face his parents. Capturing Ilonka’s mixture of willfully blind hope and genuine fear is difficult, but Benson succeeds.

Everyone can relate to the combination of personal experiences shared by the teenagers, but it seems likely that high school students with hardened nerves and rigid constitutions will be the show’s most attentive audience.

It functions with a kind of youthful emotional logic even more than “Stranger Things,” with people and the show itself pulsing with the need to speak up and be heard on their own terms. (And more so than on “Stranger Things,” grownups are a passing and infrequent presence; Heather Langenkamp and Zach Gilford, who portray the hospice’s founding doctor and nurse practitioner, respectively, are examples of this.)

But even as an adult, I found Flanagan’s approach to horror show as a way to explore the worst things that could possibly happen to someone, leading to a place of curiosity and compassion about loss and grief, in “The Midnight Club,” a relatively complete example of Flanagan’s approach throughout his Netflix work. Here, the sadness and loss are for the characters’ own futures, which calls for a delicate touch, which Flanagan and Fong have. It also calls for a properly huge and terrifying dread, which they also provide.

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