'The Midnight Club' Season 1 Review
Do you want to hear a spooky, scary story? Sorry, too slow, they've already established locations and characters so you're stuck for now. By them, I obviously mean The Midnight Club, a group of young adults assembled for season one of this horror drama series, created by writer Leah Fong with director, writer and editor Mike Flanagan (also a showrunner with Trevor Macy), based on a novel of the same name by Christopher Pike. The group comes together when high school senior Ilonka (Iman Benson) learns that she has a thyroid cancer, driving her to find a hospice for terminally ill young adults. There she meets love interest Kevin (Igby Rigney), wisecracking Anya (Ruth Codd), Amesh (Sauriyan Sapkota), Spencer (Chris Sumpter), Sandra (Annarah Cymone), Cheri (Adia) and Natsuki (Aya Furukawa), the ''club'' telling each other scary stories every night while exploring supernatural elements.
There are occasionally small glimpses of promise in the show thanks to some changes of pace that come from the writing team lead by Flanagan and Fong, namely with how few of the youth's stories are brought to life. Episodes five and nine are good examples, riffing on video games and old action films. On the flip side, those stories also underline the different levels of maturity that the main cast have as performers. Sapkota is a clear standout from the pack, constantly being a step ahead of his scene partners when it comes to reactions and voice control especially. Benson holds her own well enough as the lead but two others that have significant presence—them being Codd and Rigney—are seemingly thrown to the wolves as former's comedic timing invokes sighs more than laughs, while latter is mostly desperately just waiting to say his line without even reacting to others speaking before him.
To be fair, you also notice those kinds of inconsistencies from actors when you as a viewer are scrambling to find something else to focus on when some of the filmmaking choices are so misguided. There's so much overcompensating happening with the direction (by likes of Flanagan and Morgan Beggs) that editing and sound work become a nightmare on their own; it's not an exaggeration to say that every jump scare is executed with sudden percussive hits and reverb-soaked yells that are always way too loud. Those moments make you want to quit the series altogether since there's not much else to be invested in. Natsuki and Amesh's relationship has some ideas about loneliness and connection but you also have to suffer through Ilonka and Kevin's sub-zero chemistry or multiple uninteresting conspiracies. That's not great because our time is certainly limited on this earth.
Smileys: Sauriyan Sapkota
Frowneys: Sound mixing, sound editing, Ruth Codd, Igby Rigney
Dare you to find 21-who-cares about jump scares when none of them are great.