If These Walls Could Talk: ‘The Midnight Club’ and The Importance of The Places in Horror

The Midnight Club

One thing is certain: Mike Flanagan knows how to create a great, mind-stimulating horror. We’ve been blown away by the director’s ability to blend real-life horrors with the paranormal for quite some time now. But every single time, he delivers a layered, complex, terrifying, and touching series or film. This holds true for The Midnight Club, as well. Flanagan’s newest series, a Netflix Original, showcases his diverse abilities and ways to tell a horror story. The television show also illustrates and emphasizes the importance of places, buildings, and their history when creating a compelling narrative.

Without a doubt, The Midnight Club is one of the most difficult series to watch. It addresses death, dying, grief, sickness, faith, and the desperate need for solace. Ilonka (Iman Benson) is the protagonist of the show, diagnosed with a terminal illness shortly after graduating from high school. Desperate for a cure, the young woman travels to Brightcliffe Hospice, which is run by the ambitious Dr. Georgina Stanton (Heather Langenkamp). There, Ilonka meets a group similar to her, terminally ill young people who meet every night at midnight to tell each other scary stories—a tradition set many years ago.

While the genius and perpetual power of storytelling is a major theme in The Midnight Club, there is another, perhaps more subtle, point to make. In one of the episodes, Ilonka discusses the unyielding mystery of buildings. They’re soaked with often brutal pasts, perhaps hurtful, but also happy memories, and unheard voices. In this case, Brightcliffe Hospice. This moment in the show reminded me of a phrase my grandmother would say: “if these walls could talk…” Would the walls of the buildings around us tell us what they saw if they could talk? Would they reveal past residents’ secrets that could be useful in the present?

In The Midnight Club, the building serves as an essential part of the plot, as the audience witnesses Ilonka researching the location before deciding to spend her final days there. But, right from the start, we discover why Brightcliffe was chosen over all others. Ilonka, full of hope for her miraculous recovery, decides to move to the manor because of its enigmatic yet hope-giving past.

According to sources, a young woman named Julia Jayne vanished once for a week before reappearing completely healed. Flanagan takes on Julia’s character and Ilonka’s desire many years later—past and present—and illustrates how they intertwine. But it’s not always for good. He also excellently portrays Ilonka’s desperate desire to live, especially in the face of impending death. Thus, the girl attempts to find that last resort and turns to Brighcliffe’s past, Julia Jayne aka Shasta (Samantha Sloyan), and herbalism.

Similarly to The Haunting of Hill House, the hospice as a building plays a major role in the narrative. The residents, like the Crains, keep seeing ghosts, such as an elderly lady who is always hungry or a man with shining eyes. Brightcliffe eventually reveals its mysteries as Ilonka and others delve deeper, attempting to recreate a ritual that allegedly healed people in the past. The building tells its story through its thick walls, drafty halls, and unexplainable creaks. Ilonka and others discover a hidden basement where previous owners turned to black magi and became a dangerous cult under the leadership of Aceso (Katie Parker).

People often say that if you want to live peacefully in the present, you must let go of the past. That’s one of the lessons of The Midnight Club, as demonstrated by Benson’s character. Her Ilonka is fixated on the past, from Julia Jayne’s recovery story to Aceso’s dangerous work. The girl continues working with Dr. Stanton, who advises her not to delve into Brightcliffe’s past. But the girl will do anything to live and looks for her own miracle, which may defy logic and science.

In the case of The Midnight Club and the manor’s impact on Ilonka, the building is teaching and reminding her that some things never change, no matter how hard we try. The series also encourages further reflection on the subject of death, alternative methods of healing, and coming to terms with one’s fate. Brighcliffe’s halls are surely soaked in pain, grief, and ghosts, both literal and metaphorical, as previous tenants’ spirits tell the story of the past. But the manor, Dr. Stanton, and Ilonka’s friends all remind her that the most important thing is to be present.

The Midnight Club is streaming on Netflix.


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