20 years ago, Mike Flanagan first wrote Midnight Club — and learned a crucial lesson
The horror auteur reveals his personal connection to the series.
It’s no secret that Mike Flanagan loves horror literature. In fact, most of the projects he’s released have been adaptations of one classic horror book or another, be it Stephen King or Henry James. His latest project, Netflix’s new horror series The Midnight Club, is no exception. But the show’s origins may come as a surprise to even the most diehard Flanagan fans.
Based on the 1994 novel by Christopher Pike, Midnight Club’s road to production was a lot bumpier than you may expect. In fact, it began with a lost script — and the threat of legal action.
Midnight Club’s dark beginnings
At a press event Inverse attended, Flanagan explained his history with horror books.
“When I was growing up, you kind of started with R.L. Stine,” he said. “Then you graduated to Christopher Pike, and you felt like you were really getting away with something as Christopher Pike was writing stuff your parents absolutely didn't know was in those books.”
“Christopher Pike was writing stuff your parents absolutely didn't know was in those books.”
While in school at Towson University getting his BA in Electronic Media & Film, Flanagan remembered one particular Pike book that always made him cry — The Midnight Club.
“I took the book and I sat down and I said, I want to make an independent feature film adaptation of The Midnight Club,” he said, “and for months, I agonized over writing a script, I found it really nice. I was really excited, I was going to raise money to shoot it.”
Unfortunately, he had forgotten about one key element in making adaptations of books. He forgot to get permission from the publisher.
“I called the publisher from my dorm room. I said ‘I'm so excited. I've written an amazing script for The Midnight Club, and I can't wait to make it,’” Flanagan recalls. “They said to cease and desist. I did not have permission to do that.”
Not only was his college feature dead in the water, but there were worse implications to their denial of rights. “I destroyed the hard copies and I destroyed the digital copies of the script,” he said. “because I was terrified that I was going to be sued.”
Mike Flanagan’s second chance
Flash forward about 15 years later. While editing Doctor Sleep, Flanagan found himself poking around on Facebook and wondering if there were any other fans of the old Christopher Pike novels. He eventually found the author’s personal page where Pike was answering fan questions.
“He was intensely skeptical.”
“I sent him a message on Facebook and said, ‘I'm a big fan. You may have seen some of the stuff that I've done in the last few years, but I'd love to chat with you about adapting The Midnight Club.’”
“He was intensely skeptical. I don't think he’d seen anything that I'd done at that point, but we got on the phone for like three hours and he agreed to let me take a shot with the show. The pitch was, we'll do The Midnight Club, but the stories the kids tell are other Pike books, and he really liked that idea.”
One thing led to another, and Netflix ended up optioning 28 of Pike’s 80+ books, meaning even more stories could be adapted in future seasons.
As for his college blunder, he eventually did own up to it to Pike.
“I finally got to tell him, ‘I'm sorry already that I tried to adapt this all those years ago, I hope you'll forgive me.’ He had no idea what I was talking about.”
The Midnight Club is now streaming on Netflix.