Nightbooks Film Review

Nightbooks begins with the story of Alex, who is obsessed with scary stories. Once his best friend decides he is uncool because of it, Alex makes the decision to burn his “nightbooks”. Throwing out everything strange or scary in his room, he attempts to discard what makes him unique in order to become “normal”.

Krysten Ritter is the iconic witch of my dreams, and Alex’s nightmares. She lures children into her moving apartment, keeping only the ones she deems useful. Each night she asks to be told a scary story. What will happen when the stories run out?

Lured into the apartment with a piece of pumpkin pie and a TV playing The Lost Boys, Alex becomes the witch’s next victim. As the perfect candidate to write new stories for her, she is intrigued by his misery and desire to burn his own creations. During the day, Alex explores the mysterious apartment and writes stories for her, and each night he reads a story and plans to escape.

NIghtbooks film still

Viewers will immediately sympathize with the underdog characters and the relatable outcasts. Alex and Yasmin are not only wonderfully built, dynamic creations, but they’re people you would want to befriend in real life. Each of the two has excellent backstories, which tie into the ending to much satisfaction.

The character development takes its time to build, but ends up being far more satisfying than many works for it. Rather than one scene supporting a change, it happens gradually and naturally. Even the cat is offered some of the best character growth seen in a recent film.

Since Helter Skelter, I have not seen better aesthetics. Whether it is set dressings, fashion, or the subtle details, Nightbooks carries it in spades. Not only does it make for eye candy, but it works into a plot twist in the most satisfying way imaginable. If you like black glitter, YRU shoes, and pearls, you need to watch this movie right now. Candy catacombs, anyone?

Billed as a family movie, Nightbooks still features several scary moments. I know as a child, I would have been far too scared to watch, as my spouse agreed. If you’re a fan of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, The House with a Clock in Its Walls, and movies with impressive child casts like It, this will be right up your alley.

Nightbooks film still

The pacing was very even-keeled, quicker for action scenes, with plenty of events occurring, yet allowing time for depth, character development, and the gorgeous details to shine. It felt like reading a book, where one chooses to pause over gorgeous illustrations, but rush through exciting action scenes. Nightbooks is perfectly paced for each type of content in a way that heightens the overall experience and feels perfectly executed.

The way the witch, and her apartment, function are creative and brilliant. Her methods are subtle, psychological, and tactile. Old stories weave into new as twists are revealed in a way that does not feel tiresome, nor expected. Every reference made ties into the ending in an extremely satisfying way, proving that the writers themselves have been paying attention to their work. In fact, Sam Raimi is one of the producers, as a bonus for old school horror aficionados.

If you’re willing to give a “family movie” with real scares a chance, let Nightbooks be the one you choose. It is one of my favorite movies to date, and I was surprised how many of my favorite features I could check off the list. For aesthetics, heart, and more, give it a shot. You won’t be disappointed.


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