Nightbooks is the perfect horror movie for families to enjoy together — but is it too scary for younger kids?
Nightbooks is a terrifyingly intense, but also family friendly, horror movie. It combines a chilling tale with heart to create the must watch movie of Halloween season. The sets, cast, costumes, effects, and story all come together into something truly special. While it might be a bit on the scary side for young kids, Nightbooks is the perfect film to cuddle up with under the blanket as a family, and laugh and jump all the way through.
This movie is based on the book by the same name and dives into the life of Alex (Winslow Fegley), a young boy who loves all things horror. He loves creepy things so much that he writes scary stories himself. However, this has led him to be shunned by his peers, and on one night he is lured into the apartment of a witch Natacha (Krysten Ritter) where he meets Yasmin (Lidya Jewett). Yasmin is has been a prisoner for years, but has survived by being useful.
Something that Alex is able to do as well because she loves scary stories. Each night he is forced to write a new story and read it to her. The two kids begin to plot their escape, and what happens next is absolutely terrifying.
What Works In Nightbooks
There is a lot to love about Nightbooks. Fans of the books are sure to be blown away as the pages they have read over and over come to life on the screen, but those new to the story will also be blown away. While there are only a handful of settings in this movie, each of them are done extremely well. The witch’s apartment looks exactly how you would expect a witch’s apartment to look, it is outdated and filled with cobwebs, and of course has many rooms inside of it.
There is the dusty library that houses numerous books filled with scary stories — this is where Alex spends his time researching and writing his stories. The Night Nursery is where Natacha keeps her plants, which are ingredients for her potions.
This film is directed by David Yarovesky and produced by Sam Raimi, and it very clearly has that Sam Raimi feel. All of his signature cinematic styles are present, and they all come together for something truly horrific. Raimi is one of the best in the industry, especially when it comes to adding in that horror touch. David Yarovesky also has experience with horror and directed Brightburn.
Something that is really cool about Nightbooks is the stories within the story. When Alex tells his tales, the style of the film completely changes. Separating this was a brilliant way to make the stories feel special and to stand out. The costumes, specifically Natacha’s outfits, also bring a lot to the film. They allow the witch to express herself in a punk rock way, and each and every one of them is really freaking cool to look at. Say what you will about her, she is a stylish witch! Ritter is fantastically creepy as Natacha, and truly shines whenever she is on screen.
Both Fegley and Jewett do a great job in the movie, and are talented young actors. All too often a film can be brought down because of the child actors not doing a particularly good job, but these two excel at their roles. They have an on screen chemistry whether they are getting along or not, and it is clear they must have a bonded in real life as well. They are a lot of fun to watch! The story itself is filled with some great life lessons, and even some surprising twists and turns.
However, it is quite a bit creepy — and young ones might get scared. Just keep this all in mind while deciding if Nightbooks is for your family or not.
What Doesn’t Work In Nightbooks
One thing about Nightbooks that should be pointed out is despite it being a horror movie, it is geared towards kids and families. Because of that the plot is a little bit predictable for the adults watching. Most kids will not pick up on all the hints in the writing and direction, but many adults will. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it is common with children’s movies, but just something to be noted.
There are times that some of the horror feels a bit held back, and like it could have gone up a notch and still worked as a family film. That said, there are enough elements in this movie to be fully creepy — but Nightbooks does seem to hold back in some scenes.
Is Nightbooks Too Scary For Kids?
Nightbooks very firmly sits in the horror category, but it is also very clearly made for families to enjoy together. So does that mean it is too scary for the younger kids in the family? The best answer for this is that parents know their children, and what they can and cannot handle. Nightbooks has some jump scares, some very creepy moments, and even some intense horror elements that come into play in the third act.
There is a witch, although she doesn’t look much like one as she is very beautiful and rocks some punk rock clothes. She does spells and yells at the children as well, threatening a fate worse than death more than once.
A few times there are creepy creatures running around, one of which has a face like a skull and can be a bit intense. The scary moments are stepped up quite a bit as the third act plays out, so keep that in mind. Most young ones can get through it with a few moments of closing their eyes, and will be better off for it as they learn the lesson of how it is important to be yourself, and never change for anyone. This film is very similar to the book it is based on, so perhaps check that out first.
Nightbooks is one hundred percent a horror movie, but it walks a thin line in order to fit in the family friendly category as well. There are certainly some intense moments, and more than a few jump scares, but the overall lesson for kids — and adults really — makes this movie a special one. Underneath its terrifying exterior, there is a lot of heart and emotion at the center of Nightbooks.
Most importantly, there is a valuable lesson about never changing yourself for others, and finding friends who like you for you. Always be true to yourself, no matter what.
This message, coupled with the elaborate sets, the gorgeous costuming, and the amazingly talented Winslow Fegley, Lidya Jewett, and Krysten Ritter, make this a can’t miss movie. Nightbooks is setting up to be the best family friendly horror movie of the year — and it is perfect for spooky season!
Elaborate sets and gorgeous costumes, plus a dark story with a good message, make this a must watch family friendly horror movie for spooky season! Krysten Ritter is fabulously evil as the witch!
Alex (Winslow Fegley) is a creative boy with a strong passion for writing scary stories. But when he’s labeled weird and rejected for what he likes, he swears he’ll never write again. That’s when an evil witch (Krysten Ritter), captures him in her magical apartment in New York City and demands that he tell her a new tale every night if he wants to stay alive.
Trapped inside with Lenore, the witch’s spiteful cat watching his every move, Alex meets Yasmin (Lidya Jewett), another young prisoner who has learned how to survive the witch’s wicked whims. With Yasmin’s help, Alex must learn to embrace what makes him unique — his love for scary stories — and rewrite his own destiny to break them free.
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Tessa Smith is a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved Film and TV Critic. She is also a Freelance Writer. Tessa has been in the Entertainment writing business for almost ten years and is a member of several Critics Associations including the Hollywood Critics Association and the Greater Western New York Film Critics Association.