Mike Flanagan on ‘The Midnight Club’ and why jump scares are overused : NPR

Actors Igby Rigney and Iman Benson, who play Kevin and Ilonka, venture after curfew to Brightcliffe Hospice in new Netflix series The Midnight Club.

Eike Schröter/Netflix

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Eike Schröter/Netflix

Actors Igby Rigney and Iman Benson, who play Kevin and Ilonka, venture after curfew to Brightcliffe Hospice in new Netflix series The Midnight Club.

Eike Schröter/Netflix

If you’re looking for the perfect thriller to binge on in October, look no further than The Midnight Club.

Director Mike Flanagan, who is best known for shows such as The Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass on Netflix, has a new show based on Christopher Pike’s beloved young adult horror novel that you might remember picking up from your school library.

The Midnight Club is set in 1994 and follows the story of Ilonka – an 18-year-old who was supposed to start her first semester at Stanford University, but is diagnosed with terminal cancer.

She travels to Brightcliffe, a hospice specifically designed for young people with terminal illnesses. There she meets a group of young people, who call themselves The Midnight Club, who like to sneak past curfew and get together to tell scary stories. But what they don’t tell Ilonka is that stories can sometimes come true.

Flanagan spoke with NPR’s Ayesha Rascoe about weekend edition on the role of The Midnight Club book in his youth and his reflections on jumps.

On what drew him to The Midnight Club

The Midnight Club is based on a book I read when I was in high school by Christopher Pike. If you were into horror, very young as a reader, you started with RL Stine and then you kind of graduated with Christopher Pike. And then if you kind of stuck with the genre, you were after Stephen King after that.

It was such a formative part of my life. And The Midnight Club was the one who really hit my heart and dealt with death and mortality in a way that I never expected to be faced with at that age. It’s my kind of nostalgic attempt to dig into what horrified me in the first place.

How to Make a Horror Series When the Fear of Death Is Removed

Typically in horror, the backbone of it all is: will these people live? Will they survive? And for a story like this, the results are predetermined. From the first episode we’re told that these characters are here because they’re dying imminently, and the way you approach the horror of that becomes more of the horror of not living fully before you die and the horror of not knowing where you’re going. It really becomes a show more about life than death.

On The Midnight Clubthe first episode of breaks a Guinness world record for the number of scary jumps

There is a fundamental difference between being surprised and scared. And the Guinness thing is really funny to me because I’m not the scary movie maker. There are some that I like. One of the greatest jump scares of all time is in Jaws and I like it. Exorcist 3 has an amazing scare right out of your seat that I love.

I think they are overused, that’s really my point.

It’s not that I hate them. I react a lot not to the jump scare itself, but to the insistence I usually get from executives who say, “You have to have a prescribed number of [jump scares] in the show, and you have to have five scary jumps in the first 15 minutes, otherwise it’s not scary.”

I just really wanted to put him to rest. And I finally said to myself, okay, okay. Here are all. And we set a record. And so now I have this Guinness certificatewhich I think gives me the right the next time I get the note where they say we want extra jumps, or I can say, “Well, I have the world record.”