8 Movies and TV Shows Like “The Midnight Club” on Netflix: Mike Flanagan’s latest Netflix horror collaboration is “The Midnight Club”. Flanagan has always infused great emotional and existential arcs with traditional horror tropes. Based on Christopher Pike’s works, “The Midnight Club” focuses on the lives of terminally ill teenagers residing in a care center. The kids gather in the library when the clock hits midnight hour, and tell each other a story. A horror story. But, the definition of horror is broad. These stories reflect their own fears and regrets and dread of the ultimate end.
As a result, “The Midnight Club” is like a box of chocolates of different flavors of horror. This list mostly consists of films and shows that contain multiple stories. It is also mostly a recommendation that includes horror stories. Such films, which contain multiple stories, are also known as Portmanteau films or more commonly anthologies. Now, starting with Dead of Night (1945) to the American Horror Story, there are numerous works like that in horror. I have tried not to get carried away with that. For instance, all the Amicus Productions Portmanteau horror films are highly recommended. But, here I have included one.
Like “The Midnight Club”, not all of the entrants are perfect. And it is not a perfect list. I have tried not to include the too obvious suggestions. For instance, Mike Flanagan’s other works or “The Breakfast Club” or “The Terminator.”
Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)
This is the first of the Portmanteau films from Amicus. Directed by Freddie Francis and written by Milton Subotsky, the film had horror legends Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, as well as Donald Sutherland in one of his earlier roles. Cushing played the titular Dr. Terror, who, on a train journey, predicts the future of his five-compartment companions. Needless to say, all of their future consists of some sort of supernatural event.
Not all stories pass the test of time. The Voodoo story is definitely not too bright. One needs to be a little lenient to old-school campy horrors to enjoy this film. And even if you are not really willing to do so, the story “Disembodied Hand” featuring Christopher Lee is bound to intrigue. Lee plays an art critic who gets haunted by one of the artists he criticized heavily. First physically, then supernaturally. Apart from that, the vampire and werewolf stories are quite enjoyable too. The ‘Creeping Vine’ story featuring a marauding plant is nonchalantly interesting. On top of that, the overarching or framing story does tie up the five segments quite well, even if it is with a twist that is quite predictable.
Masaki Kobayashi’s “The Human Condition” is a triumph of cinema. That is always a recommendation without any preamble. Now, Kobayashi has also made a horror anthology film. “Kwaidan” literally translates to “Ghost Stories”. The film is an adaptation of multiple stories from Lafcadio Hearn’s collection of Japanese folk stories. Mainly from the book called ‘Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things’.
“The Midnight Club” wanted to champion storytelling, as it is through that the kids reached out to each other. Kobayashi’s “Kwaidan” is storytelling via the brushes of a painter. It literally has one segment where it tells the story of “Battle of Dan-no-ura” using painted imageries. The four folk tales told in Kwaidan might not be scary enough for horror puritans, however, they are eerie enough to keep you intrigued. The soundscape in “Kwaidan” is still a facet to learn for many modern horror enthusiasts and filmmakers. And obviously for any other cinephiles, “Kwaidan” would be pure art. The way Kobayashi crafts each sequence is mesmerizing, to say the least. “Kwaidan” is a masterpiece, transcending the barriers of genre tropes.
Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Now, if “Kwaidan” is not exactly tailor-made for Horror puritans, this American Halloween special feature definitely is. Directed and written by Michael Dougherty (director of 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters), this horror film might not exactly be in an anthology format. It is more of a fragmented narrative of multiple stories, stitched together in one common event. Kind of like “Pulp Fiction”.
It features four separate but somewhat linked stories with one overarching conclusive story tying all of them together. Without trying to spoil any of them, I can say it traverses through most of the horror tropes. You have your werewolves, your massacres, vampires, your serial killers. Tropes that horror enthusiasts enjoy very much. The four stories have both fun and evil reflected in them, and there are some quite interesting twists. It also has one evil and unbeatable foe, in a tiny size. It is always enjoyable to have that kind of horror villain. “Trick ‘r Treat” is an unmissable Halloween watch.
War Games (1983)
The stories told by the kids in “The Midnight Club” are not alike. In fact, some of them are not horror at all. Unless you really take an extremely broader sense of that word. The characters who told those stories did, and obviously, it does reflect their own personal fears. So, this list would have been imperfect without such an imperfect entry. This entry is primarily related to the story Amesh told in the club. Where he inserted himself as the video gamer who wants to ‘save the world’, and ‘get the girl’. The story was about a video game, which started as a simulation of World War three then led to the end of the world. Now, this segment and its themes bear strong similarities with this 1983 film called “War Games.”
“War Games” was directed by John Badham and written by Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes. It starred the then ‘brat pack’ stars Matthew Broderick (of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”) and Ally Sheedy (of “The Breakfast Club”). Broderick plays a young hacker who accidentally hacks into the military supercomputer. The supercomputer is being worked by NORAD and is responsible for missile launching. The computer presents itself to him as a game, and he starts what the computer calls “The Thermonuclear War”, between the USA and the Soviet Union. This results in a quiet cat-and-mouse chase, and plenty of ‘time is running out’ tension-filled action sequences. So if you liked Amesh’ story, chances are you would quite enjoy this little gem of a thriller.
This is one of my personal favorite TV shows. Granted the show has its fair share of lovers and detractors. And there is a valid point of criticism as the show got a bit too entangled in the mysteries it had created. However, created by J. J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, and Jeffrey Lieber, ‘Lost’ is an immediately intriguing show. ‘Lost’ is also not a traditional horror show. However, it channels similarities with “The Midnight Club” in other ways. “The Midnight Club” children have lots going on in their lives before coming to that hospice. The hospice, even in their dire situations, becomes a sanctuary for them. A similar dynamic is there in ‘Lost’, where plane crash survivors make the island they crashed into their sanctuary.
Just like the hospice, the island in ‘Lost’ provides more than a physical place to stay, for its inhabitants. It changes their lives, just as the hospice is doing to the terminally ill kids in “The Midnight Club.” ‘Lost’ is also not an anthology show. However, the way each episode focuses on each of its characters’ lives; is quite similar to the way each story reflects the lives of the club members in “The Midnight Club.” And like “Trick ‘r Treat’ most of the characters and their stories would be linked one way or another.
Darna Mana Hai (2003)
Yes, it is a bit indelicate to put this on this list. However, I believe, given a chance, this Bollywood Horror Anthology with a multi-star cast could find some takers in people reading this list. “Darna Mana Hai”, which roughly translates to ‘Fear is forbidden’, has plenty of influences on itself. Directed by Prawaal Raman and produced by Ram Gopal Verma, the film starts as any horror anthology starts. People getting stuck in one location, and then telling each other stories. The basic premise and the overarching framing story is simple with a fairly common twist at the end.
It is however the stories, six of them, that propel the film to a quite enjoyable affair. So much so that the film is now considered a cult among horror enthusiasts who have seen a fair bit of Bollywood. As mentioned before, the stories do draw some inspiration from other classic horror works, but most of them are still good enough on their own for a view. One of the stories is centered on a horror prank gone wrong, another is about a fruit vendor selling Lovecraftian apples. One where a neglected loner gets a weird and supernatural power, and another where a teacher is haunted by a homework done by one of his students. The best of the lot would be the Bates Motel-inspired ‘Smoking’ story featuring superstar Saif Ali Khan. Where Khan’s character just wants to smoke in a hotel, where every nook and cranny falls under the ‘No Smoking’ zone. Intriguing, right? All you have to do is overlook the usual song-dance opening sequence and quite ridiculous establishing opening act. Once the hamming actors start to tell their stories, it would not be too bad.
Community Season 3 Halloween Episode (2011)
Okay. Another weird entry in this list. Created by Dan Harmon, “The Community” is a greatly written show which I cannot recommend enough. However, for this particular list, we are mostly concentrating on the fifth episode of the series’ third season. Titled “Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps”, this Halloween special episode is top-notch storytelling, and immensely funny. Even if you watch the episode in isolation, without knowing any of the characters and their backstories, it would leave a lasting impression. Obviously, if you watch the show from the beginning then it would be more enjoyable.
The premise is also quite incredible for a framing story. One of the seven main characters, Britta, conducts a beginner’s psychology test on all the seven members of the group. However, she, as part of a running gig, loses the information about which test belongs to whom. And one of the test results shows one of the group members could be a psychopath. To find out who could be that, Britta asks everyone to tell a scary story. Thinking their stories might reflect the true nature of them. “The Midnight Club” does the same with each of its characters. All the stories told by the characters channel not only their history and emotions but also their current feeling. Obviously, ‘Community’ being a comedy show, nothing sinister happens and all the stories do reflect the various idiosyncrasies of each character. The end to the framing story is also quite anti-climactic and sweet, especially if you know Abed.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1965)
Well, the name itself is quite enough to convince anyone to watch this. The show started in 1955 with weekly one episode, airing on CBS. It changed its broadcast network to NBC in 1960 and in 1962 the name was also changed to “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.” In a total of 361 episodes, the master of suspense encompasses various mystery, thriller, and drama stories and presents this mammoth anthology series. Apart from Hitchcock himself, Ida Lupino, Robert Altman, and many others directed the episodes.
The show had original stories as well as adaptations of literary works of greats like Dorothy L. Sayers and Ray Bradbury. It does not matter whether it is Halloween or not, whether you are into horror or not, or whether you actually like “The Midnight Club” or not. One cannot go wrong with this.