‘Nightbooks’ – A Nice Mix of ‘Goosebumps’ and the tale of Hansel and Gretal
Based on the novel by J. A. White, ‘Nightbooks’ follows the story of a young boy Alex, played by Winslow Fegley, who’s obsession with scary stories is the only thing that keeps him alive when he is trapped in a magical apartment by a witch, played by Krysten Ritter. He is tasked with reading her a new original scary story each night in order to keep himself and his prison mate and new friend Yasmin, played by Lidya Jewett, alive. This film is intended for kids but holds many life lessons and fun moments that any aged person can enjoy. With a perfect blend of comedy, horror, and family-friendly moments, ‘Nightbooks’ is a great watch for everyone.
The novel comes alive on screen with a beautiful set and good rhythm of the story. Along with the fantastic casting choices, ‘Nightbooks’ offers a new classic to kids and young adults like the fan favorite ‘Goosebumps’ series. Though a scaredy cat as a kid myself, a fair warning for parents to not let their kids watch if they get frightened easily. Witches and stolen children are not the most happy subjects in kid’s minds.
Fun Watch For Writers
As a writer myself, I found this film to be completely relatable in the storytelling sense. Alex is a writer who loves to write scary stories in his free time. At the start of the film, Alex says he will never write one again after a mystery event affects him. He is then lured into an empty magical apartment when he sees ‘The Lost Boys’ playing on a television and a perfect slice of pumpkin pie waiting for him to take a bite. When he awakes and sees he is trapped, the witch tells him he must use his special skills to keep him alive and write scary stories to make her happy. During most of the film, Alex struggles with the task of doing something he loves… writing. Writers themselves know that the hardest part about writing is actually writing. It was comical to see a young child experiencing the heaviest writer’s block and knowing that if he can’t get through it then he won’t survive. It was a fantastical way to display how many writers feel when they are stuck and how the mind can dive deep into the absolute worst consequence if they can’t get themselves out of it.
Throughout the film, there are also great lines and some truth to storytelling that aspiring writers should pay attention to. The witch says multiple times to young Alex that “the more truth, the more powerful the story”. This is a crucial thing for writers to embrace in their work. Though someone can write about new fantasy worlds and make-believe monsters, there is always some truth behind their stories. Whether it be the why or the who, good writers usually weave their own life experiences and emotions into their characters to be able to get a real connection with the reader or watcher. The witch also mutters the line, “Writers are always so insecure”. Maybe a bit harsh to hear, but the truth for most.
It’s rare to see perfect casting choices these days in Hollywood films. Usually, films tend to go with A-list celebrity picks to guarantee that fans will rush to the theater to watch their favorite actors, even though they aren’t the right fit for the role. With only a small cast of three leads for most of the film, ‘Nightbooks’ took their time and searched out the perfect cast. Starting with Krysten Ritter who is most known for great television roles like ‘Jessica Jones’, ‘Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23’ and even ‘Breaking Bad’ her feature performances are just as impressive as in ‘Big Eyes’ and ‘El Camino’. Her performance for Natacha in ‘Nightbooks’ was funny and thrilling. With a stellar costume design, Ritter became a fashionably terrifying witch.
The other two leads did not disappoint and kept up with Ritter’s pace. Winslow Fegley gave emotion and almost acting like a small adult with seriousness for his writing. He was a joy to watch on screen and his chemistry with his friend Lidya Jewett was perfect. The veteran of the witch’s entrapment, Jewett was the perfect balance to Fegley and gave a great performance in each scene.
When a film has such a limited cast and limited settings, things can get old quite quickly. ‘Nightbooks’ is able to take the same settings and reimagine them into brilliant set design. Though much of the credit must go to the original author, the direction by David Yarovesky was wildly entertaining to the eye. Having a good balance between horror and family-friendly film can be a difficult line to walk on, but he was able to mend the two together without one overpowering the other. Of course, the lack of blood and gore are excluded from the film, there was still a good amount of horror-like images that would still give the same effect.
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A creative way that let the camera come out of the room was when Alex was reading Natacha the scary stories. Almost cartoon-like settings would appear and act like a stage play as he would read along to his story. It let the viewer get out of the apartment, but still not lose where they are. The images were creepy enough to spook, but not enough to terrify younger viewers. It was a great choice by Yarovesky to display the stories even though they could be described as corny stories, but they fit perfectly in the style of this film.
‘Nightbooks’ directed by David Yarovesky and starring Krysten Ritter is a must-watch for people of all ages! Especially for aspiring writers and lovers of horror stories, it feels nostalgic with it being a children’s story, while also being entertaining. A fantastical story with a great “the end”… or is it??
Where to Watch:
‘Nightbooks’ can be streamed on Netflix.
Actors: Winslow Fegley | Lidya Jewett | Krysten Ritter
Director: David Yarovesky | Writers: J. A. White (novel), Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis | Producers: Romel Adam, Michelle Knudsen, Sam Raimi, and Mason Novick
By Jack Colin
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Jack Colin is a playwright and screenwriter with an immense love for film & television which drives him to learn from and share his passion with anyone willing to listen. Living life as a trans man, Jack wants his writing to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ members and share the positive stories that are so often ignored through his work at The Hollywood Insider, he is eager to give readers a confident outlook on life. The storytellers of the world are the ones who decide what happiness can be. Jack takes pride in The Hollywood Insider’s mission statement to stray away from gossip and to lift up voices in entertainment with supportive and meaningful stories that will promote strength and unity.