Review: Nightbooks is a delightfully scary horror movie for kids


If you’re looking for a kid friendly Halloween movie to start off the holiday season with a scary good time then the Netflix original Nightbooks should definitely be added to your watch list.

Based on the book by J.A. White, the film follows Alex Mosher (Winslow Fegley), a young horror enthusiast whose talent lies in writing. It’s a skill that proves useful after he’s lured into the apartment of a witch.

Natacha (Krysten Ritter) is a nasty piece of work whose fashion sense is through the roof. Her fabulous wardrobe, however, cannot erase how threatening she is. Ritter does a wonderful job of imbuing the character with the kind of menace that’ll leave children unsettled without dipping toward bone-chilling or a caricature.

The witch is petulant, childish, prone to lashing out, and in need of a horror story being read to her every night. Alex fits the bill for the latter trait, and it’s what keeps him alive. Despite his depressing circumstances, the young writer is determined to escape though he won’t be able to do it alone.

Nightbooks is a kids horror movie about friendship and embracing who you are

Thankfully, there’s Yasmine (Lidya Jewett), another child trapped in Natacha’s apartment. Initially, Yas is cold to the idea of trying to escape. She’s been stuck with the witch for years and all hope of escaping has pretty much left her.

The two, however, strike up a friendship that’s heartwarming and is an essential piece of one of Nightbooks central themes: embracing who you are in spite of those that try to tear you down. Through a mutant insect attack, foiled plans, and a twist that young viewers won’t see coming, the pair develop a bond built on the fact that they’re different.

Alex is obsessed with horror stories and writing which has ostracized him from his peers and given him the nickname “Creepshow.” Yas is incredibly intelligent and a science whiz which had labeled her a try hard among her classmates.

The movies anti-bullying message wasn’t something I expected upon watching, but it’s integrated well among the mild jump scares and screams of terror as the friends work to stay alive.

Nightbooks has a satisfying ending that ties the discoveries Alex and Natacha make in the apartment up well. It includes a showdown in its final moments that does seem a bit rushed but works for the story being told.

All-in-all, the movie is reminiscent of the Halloween films that would run on Disney Channel during their spooktacular though admittedly it rides its PG rating close to the line.

This Netflix original is definitely for older children. Young ones may enjoy it but with its intense and frightning scenes, it could be too much for them if watched on their own. The movie is, however, listed as a family offering on the platform, so it’s meant to be a movie adults and kids can enjoy together.

As for its scariest moments those mostly involve unexpected attacks from the likes of Lenore (Natacha’s cat) and the shredders that plague the witch’s garden. Also, Natacha’s repeated threats of killing the children bring a tension into the movie that’s suitably disturbing as it’s clear she will harm them if she tires of their presence.

Viewers will likely enjoy Nightbooks’ interludes during Alex’s reading time with the witch. While they’re meant to be scary stories despite being rather tame, they also provide insight into his character and how he tends to write horrific circumstances but hopeful endings.

Given the conclusion of the movie, they’re perfect allusions to what viewers can expect from the plot of Nightbooks. Horror transformed into hope.

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Nightbooks is available to stream now on Netflix.