Mike Flanagan has faced his worst fear: The jump scare.
The “Midnight Mass” and “Haunting of Hill House” mastermind packed 21 separate instances of the classic horror trope into the premiere of his latest Netflix series, “The Midnight Club,” a tally so high it actually breaks the Guinness World Record for “most scripted jump scares in a single television episode.”
A Guinness World Record official presented Flanagan and Co. their certificate for the achievement during the “Midnight Club’s” New York Comic Con panel Thursday night, which included a preview of the premiere episode ahead of the show’s Friday launch.
“This is particularly important to me because I hate jump scares and I think they are the worst,” Flanagan told reporters during a press conference earlier Thursday. “My whole career, people have been like, put more jump scares in, and do them faster!”
Flanagan’s Intrepid Pictures producing partner Trevor Macy jumped in: “There’s a meme about it, especially with movies, ‘Put more jump scares in the first act, it doesn’t work!’”
“And I hate them, because I feel like it’s very easy to walk up behind somebody and smash things,” Flanagan said, with Macy noting that the “Midnight Club” character Spence (played by Chris Sumpter) is “channeling Mike” in the show when he calls the storytelling move “lazy as fuck,” and the storyteller, Natsuki (Aya Furukawa), proceeds to overuse the device to comical effect.
Flanagan says there was a method to the madness used in the “Midnight Club” premiere, because if he was going to do what he considered the wrong thing, he was going to do it the right way.
“The notes were already coming in of, ‘time to do jump scares.’ So I thought, we’re going to do all of them at once and, if we do it right, a jump scare will be rendered meaningless for the rest of the series and we’ll just destroy it and kill it, finally, until it’s dead,” Flanagan said. “But that didn’t happen. They were like, ‘Great! More of those!’ So my whole career I’ve completely just shat on jump scares as a concept, and now I want to make sure that it was pinned to me as much as it is to the show and Netflix and all of us who have inflicted this on everyone, now I have my name in the Guinness Book of World Records for jump scares, which means the next time I get the note I can say, ‘As the current world record holder in jump scares, I can tell you I don’t think we need one here.’ And that’s my whole strategy.”
Based on the work of YA horror author Christopher Pike, “The Midnight Club” is set at a hospice for terminally ill young adults, where eight patients come together every night at midnight to tell each other stories — and make a pact that the next of them to die will give the group a sign from the beyond. The format of the show allowed Flanagan and co-creator Leah Fong to “abandon tone at any point depending on who was telling the story,” per Flanagan, which gave them the chance to hit 21 jump scares in the premiere, including the “dumb throw-a-cat-across-the-foreground jump scare” and the “unexpected-teleport jump scare,” among others.
“Filming a jump scare is ridiculous, because just outside of frame everyone is just waiting to do the scare,” Flanagan said, adding: “We got to have the kind of fun I never have at work.”
“The Midnight Club,” which launches its 10-episode first season Friday on Netflix, stars Heather Langenkamp, Iman Benson, Igby Rigney, Adia, Aya Furukawa, Sauriyan Sapkota, Annarah Cymone, Chris Sumpter and Ruth Codd.