Nightbooks is a quasi-anthology that is coming to Netflix as a part of its Netflix and Chills Halloween lineup. Alex (Winslow Fegley) is a young boy who may be too obsessed with horror stories. He ends up trapped with another young girl named Yasmin (Lidya Jewett) in the apartment of witch named Natacha (Krysten Ritter). He has to read Natacha a spooky story every night to prove his usefulness and stay alive. But what happens when he runs out?
Family friendly horror has a tendency to be underrated. They are quickly dismissed as just for kids or not being scary enough. Films like Monster House and Coraline have proven there is a space for fun and frightening horror films aimed at a younger demographic. These are not just limited to animated features, either. The Monster Squad is still looked back on fondly.
Nightbooks is a different type of anthology. It does have a handful of stories and a framing device, but the focus here is on the overarching plot. It is a nice change to the formula that enables audiences to get to know the main characters. As fun as anthologies can be, they are limited in regards to character development. This is the result of the subgenre as time does not allow for anything but broad stereotypes.
In this case, the individual tales serve as the backdrop for the bigger story. The characters are still tropes – Alex wants to escape while Yasmine is resigned to her fate – but there is more of a chance to get interested in the motives. In particular, Natacha really stands out. Ritter is fantastic as the know-it-all witch. She is a mix of sarcastic, mean, and most importantly, scary.
Nightbooks does a great job of holding up its end of the bargain when it comes to scares. Along with Natacha, there is some fantastic creature design and the closing moments are gruesome (it may be a little hard for younger children to watch.) The final act of the film uses light and shadow perfectly giving things and adventurous and terrifying look.
Alex’s stories have a unique look to them. The colors are great using just reds, grays, and blacks. The stories are decent enough and certainly sound like ones that children share with each other. But they also do not have the same bite found in these type of films.. That being said, Nightbooks is also about the development of Alex as a storyteller, so it does play into the movie.
Netflix is getting a jump on the Halloween season with a different type of anthology. Nightbooks is a fun horror movie that kids and adults will enjoy. Krysten Ritter is great as the always correcting witch, while the scares are fun and well done. The stories being told have look different than anything else in the film and stand apart from the rest of the film. The new Netflix release is a nice addition to any Halloween lineup.
Nightbooks comes to Netflix September 15
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