Editor’s Note: The following contains The Midnight Club spoilers.master storyteller Mike Flanagan has added a new branch to his ‘Flanaverse’ with his teen horror series, The Midnight Club on Netflix. The streaming service released all 10 episodes on October 7th, 2022, each of which are loosely inspired by the 1994 novel of the same name, written by Christopher Pike. Following two years of production, The Midnight Club has already received some recognition with viewers wondering about a second season. While fans wait to see if the resolutions of Brightcliffe’s mysteries will be televised, the show’s popularity does beg an investigation of how closely it matched the source material and some key points of where it differed.
The Novel Has Some Major Differences
While both stories follow a group of close-knit, terminally ill teenagers who reside at a hospice manor through the perspective of Ilonka Pawnuk, the novel isn’t a scary story by any means. There are some “spooky” elements such as the occasional cold spot throughout the manor’s halls and some mystical elements to the sub-stories Ilonka and her friends tell, but there is n’t anything present to qualify the book’s genre as “Horror.” Instead, we’re treated to an interesting, yet solemn, short story about a group of young adults who come to grips with their inevitable mortality while also coming of age. They cope with this by coming together as ‘The Midnight Club’ to tell each other stories in the study of Rotterham Hospice.
The story’s intended message of the acceptance of death is upheld in both formats, but the book is slightly more outright in addressing it, especially through Ilonka. Like the show’s version, the group promises that the first to die would send the others a message from beyond with the related events, starting with Anya’s death, playing out about the same. In both tellings, an explanation is given that essentially negates the afterlife for readers. Here, Pike replaces the show’s revelation of Sandra speaking through the intercom as ‘Tristan’ with Kevin removing Anya’s belongings from her room. This takes place while Ilonka slept and was done for similar reasons as the show. The ambiguity of life’s finality is maintained in both iterations, however, in the form of Anya’s sculpture mysteriously regaining its missing leg.
In the Book, Ritual Has a Simpler History
When it comes to rituals, the overarching story involving the Paragon, The Five Sisters and Shasta/Julia Jayne are specific to the show. The book’s ritual originated as an idea that came to Ilonka in one of her many dreams the novel tells of and is performed by The Midnight Club members. It’s a simpler version of the Netflix group’s introductory cheers with the members hugging as they say “I belong to you” to one another. It serves as a reminder that they’re not alone and will always be remembered.
Contrary to The Midnight Club being ‘generational’ with rotating members as it is in the show, the novel’s version was only recently started by Ilonka, Kevin and Spencer. Anya and Sandra joined in later since one of them was already friends with the founding members. As opposed to the show’s group designating each night to a single member telling ghost stories based on Christopher Pike’s other novels, the book has them take turns throughout the night as they tell a variety of tales which tend to be influenced by each narrator’s past. The only tale to be directly pulled from the novel is Anya’s “The Devil and Dana,” which is renamed “The Two Danas” in Flanagan’s narrative and fits the show perfectly.
More Differences Between the Book and Show
In its written form, the manor houses around 30 patients with the story focusing on Spencer, Ilonka, Kevin, Anya and Sandra. Those of Natuski (Aya Farukawa), Cheri (adia)and Amesh (Saurian Kapota) were created for the show, but it isn’t like the latter two can’t be found in some form in the novel. Within Spencer, his charisma and wit reflects that of Amesh, and he’s the group’s best storyteller. He so effortlessly weaves his tales that it leaves readers unsure when he’s speaking truthfully, particularly when it comes to his involvement with Anya’s death. This is an especially relevant trait considering the lengths he goes to hide that he’s gay and living with AIDS from the group. His reasons make enough sense, when he explains why he did at the end of the book, but it does ring a familiar note to the Netflix’s adaptation when it comes to the uncertainty of Cheri’s character. With that said, Spencer is represented much better in the show and has a much more satisfying story arc of owning who he is.
Looking at the specifics of the other characters, some of the most prominent changes surround Ilonka. In the book, she’s Polish, believes she’s reincarnated with memories of her past lives and follows the teachings of ‘The Master’ who appears in her dreams, serving as a spiritual guide. This is such a strong trait that it influences her storytelling during meetings and becomes intertwined with her romance with Kevin, whom she also believes is her eternal soulmate. As interesting of a read as this sounds, it proves to be sort of lackluster aside from the book’s epilogue which follows Ilonka and Kevin into the afterlife. Rather, the show omits “The Master” thus far and switches Ilonka’s dreams of her reincarnated lives out for visions of what seem to be time travel. This allows for her shared feelings with Kevin to come about more organically while maintaining the dramatic spirit of their story.
If one were to compare the two objectively, the Netflix telling is certainly a different story from the book. As opposed to a horror story, Christopher Pike’s novel is an interesting read that grapples with coming to terms of imminent mortality at a young age. With plans to have the source serve as a springboard for an ongoing series, Season 1 of the series left many questions for Season 2 to resolve. Since Pike’s tale has a definitive ending that follows Kevin and Ilonka metaphorically leaving the planet and launching into the galaxy of the afterlife, fans will simply have to wait and see just how the show’s extended story plays out.
The Midnight Club is currently streaming on Netflix.