Director: David Yarovesky
Writers: Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis
Starring: Winslow Fegley, Lidya Jewett and Krysten Ritter
Based on the children’s horror book by J.A. White Nightbooks is the latest Netflix original. A family friendly horror/fantasy story that is a modern retelling of the classic fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. Alex is a young boy who is obsessed with horror. He loves horror films and wants to write his own stories. He is lured into a strange apartment with the promise of pie and The Lost Boys and ends up being captured by a witch. She wants him to read stories to her each night and if he doesn’t, she will kill him. During the day he is supposed to be writing but spends more time trying to escape the witch’s house.
This is a good family horror film. There isn’t anything spectacular or ground-breaking, but it’s a really solid and entertaining film. It never feels boring or too predictable. It’s enjoyable for people of all ages. Winslow Fegley as Alex and Lidya Jewett as Yazmin are both great. They work well together when trying to survive in the witch’s house. Alex is an interesting and relatable character and it is interesting to see him uncover the secrets in the library of the witch’s house.
Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones) is excellent as the witch. She’s sinister and a brilliant every time that she’s on screen. Her reactions to the stories that Alex is telling, switching from enjoying them to hating them are sudden and unpredictable. She’s a scary character who will leave a lasting impression.
While the CGI leaves a lot to be desired there are a lot of great visuals and stylish moments in Nightbooks. The stories that Alex tells the witch are always shown to us with beautiful storybook visuals. The backgrounds look handmade and drawn, the colours pop off screen and the image stutters as if the stories are old films that have been discovered years later with missing frames. It’s really gorgeous to look at.
The sets are also stunning. The house looks like an endless labyrinth and there is one location later in the story, which would be a spoiler to speak about, but it looks great. The whole film looks like it could have been lifted from drawings in a children’s book.
With quite a few references to old horror films, especially The Lost Boys there is enough to keep horror fans happy while keeping children entertained at the same time. It’s a love letter to horror films while also a good story in itself that has some genuinely creepy moments but isn’t going to be to scary for the children it’s made for.
Nightbooks is a great family friendly horror film. The visuals are great, the cast are great, the CGI is a little lacking, but it’s made up for with some brilliant visuals during the story sequences. The story isn’t doing anything spectacular but It’s still a joy to watch.