Mike Flanagan hates jump scares. "I think they are the worst," the horror maven behind The Haunting of Hill House, Doctor Sleep, and Midnight Mass said during an intimate press event at Netflix headquarters in New York at the start of New York Comic Con. That's why it's extremely important to him that his name is linked to a particular Guinness World Record he and his creatives just broke.
On Thursday, Netflix premiered the first episode of Flanagan's new series, The Midnight Club, at the Javitz Center in Manhattan, the night before the series debuts on the streaming platform. Doing so set a new Guinness World Record for the most scripted jump scares in a single episode of television — which is now 21 total.
A representative for Guinness, adjudicator Andrew Glass, was in attendance at the Con to make it official by presenting a certificate.
Eike Schroter/Netflix Annarah Cymone's Sandra gets a scare in Netflix's 'The Midnight Club.'
Flanagan feels jump scares are a lazy genre trope, but that was part of the fun. Executives have constantly pushed him to include more jump scares in his work. So, for The Midnight Club, he made a decision. "I thought, 'We're going to do all of them at once, and then if we do it right, a jump scare will be rendered meaningless for the rest of the series.' It'll just destroy it. Kill it finally until it's dead," he told a room full of press in advance of the big Guinness break. "But that didn't happen. They were like, 'Great! More [scares]!'"
The Midnight Club, co-created by Flanagan and Leah Fong, is an adaptation of Christopher Pike's teen novel of the same name that also incorporates spooky tales from the author's other books. The main story is set at Brightcliffe Hospice, a place for terminally ill teenagers to transition on their own terms, but it comes with its own eerie history.
Eight of the residents — Iman Benson's Ilonka, Adia's Cheri, Igby Rigney's Kevin, Annarah Cymone's Sandra, Aya Furukawa's Natsuki, Ruth Codd's Anya, Sauriyan Sapkota's Amesh, and Chris Sumpter's Spencer — gather each night in the library at the stroke of midnight for gatherings of the Midnight Club, a group that's been going on for years where members share ghost stories and look for signs of life beyond death.
The first episode sees Natsuki tell a ghost story about a boy named Ren (played by Sumpter) who sees creepy figures smiling at him from the windows of suburban houses as he walks home from school. What follows is a series of rapid jump-scares that, as Flanagan alluded to, are meant to poke fun at jump-scares. Spencer, who's listening to this story, even says, "Startled isn't the same as scared. Anyone can bang pots and pans behind someone's head. That's not scary. It's just startling. And it's lazy as f---."
"My whole career I completely shat on jump scares as a concept, and I wanted to make sure it was pinned to me, too, as much as it is to the show, to Netflix, and all of us who have inflicted this on everyone," Flanagan said. "Now, I have my name in the Guinness Book of World Records for jump scares, which means next time I get the note, I can say, 'You know, as the current world record holder for jump scares, I don't think we need one here.'"
Flanagan and Fong were present at the New York Comic Con panel with producing partner Trevor Macy and members of the cast. Heather Langenkamp, a legendary scream queen from A Nightmare on Elm Street who plays Dr. Georgina Stanton on The Midnight Club, was present with Benson, Rigney, Adia, Furukawa, Sapkota, Cymone, Sumpter, and Codd.
The Midnight Club casts its shadow over Netflix this Friday. Watch our video with the cast above.
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