I will say that NIGHTBOOKS takes a bit to get going. And one twist out of its two biggest is fairly predictable. So I was debating in my head about whether or not this was a “Now” or “Whenever.” That said, good horror for kids is incredibly hard to come by. And compared to a similarly-toned film like THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS, which had a bigger budget movie with more promise and a bigger and better cast, NIGHTBOOKS ends up getting better as it goes along rather than worse. I mean, just look at this still of Krysten Ritter and tell me that won’t give your kids nightmares. That’s awesome!
The film has some genuinely creepy moments and relishes in many dark Roald Dahl-esque ideas and aesthetics. A lot of it reminded me of some of the stories from THE WITCHES novel and 1990 film, which I genuinely appreciated. As did I appreciate that it was much scarier and far less goofy than the awful Robert Zemeckis remake of THE WITCHES.
More than that, the film also takes some time to explore its characters. There are some strong emotional hang-ups in both of the protagonists that come off as incredibly mature. It absolutely allows the film to explore the much more heavy themes of abandonment, guilt, and bullying. Up and comer Lidya Jewett absolutely shines, while Winslow Fegley and Krysten Ritter are good but a bit heavier in the over-acting category.
Furthermore, there are story sequences in the film that are executed in a downright creepy fashion. It’s an incredibly bold move to start using tricks, filters, and makeup effects that look like they’re out of the original 1981 first EVIL DEAD film in a kids’ movie. And I have to give NIGHTBOOKS so much respect and love for that! (Side note: Sam Raimi produced the film, so it makes sense why).
Again it’s a movie that starts rocky. It seems like it’s all over the place when it begins. And it takes a while to really become fascinating. But if you stay with it, it genuinely turns out to be a unique and freaky little film for those looking for a non-R-rated thrill. All in all, this could be nightmare-inducing for kids, but it’s also creative, mature, and fun! I really hope it becomes a kid’s Halloween Horror cult classic someday!
Well done, Netflix!
NIGHTBOOKS is streaming on Netflix now!