The title of Netflix Night books has a distinct sound – you know, a compound word representing a scarefest based on a book by YA, something along the lines of Dusk Where Creeptomes Where Strange stories, stuff like that. By far the most shocking fact about this Sam Raimi-produced adaptation of JA White’s children’s novel is that it’s not a dozen-volume series, but a story. autonomous on a couple of children imprisoned by a witch. White has written a few different series, so why Netflix chose something with a beginning, middle AND end to adapt is one of the big mysteries in the universe. I mean, the movie is a paltry 100 minutes of content – where’s the ambition to develop another potential franchise with multiple trilogies, prequel series, and animated spinoffs? Slackers, all of them. Whether or not Night books is worthy of such treatment is irrelevant, but I guess that doesn’t stop us from evaluating it anyway, as follows.
NIGHTS: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The essential: IT WAS A THUNDERSTORM NIGHT. IT WAS ALSO A DARK NIGHT. The rain falls on a building. In one of these apartments, Alex (Winslow Fegley of Timmy’s failure glory) is extraordinarily upset. He’s a horror maven who’s surely too young to have seen all the bloody cool movies advertised via the piles of posters on his bedroom walls, so there may be some questionable parenthood going on here. But that’s not why he cries. He spreads all his Fangoria magazines and grabs all the horror stories he’s written, vowing to burn them down. His parents are talking quietly in another room as he sneaks out of the apartment to the elevator. He wants to go to the basement but there is a roar and a twinkle of lights and strange disembodied whispers and he finds himself on the fourth floor, where there is an apartment that seems to exist out of time. He has no choice but to get out of here because the buttons don’t work and the movie also has a schedule to fill out.
The apartment is full of creepy old dolls and cobwebs and dim lighting. An old TV console flashes and plays The lost boys, which is catnip for Alex. Next to it is a slice of pumpkin pie, and he takes a big bite out of it like a total rube. THIS IS REALLY POISON PIE, ALEX. He chokes and wakes up to a heavily Cruella’d Krysten Ritter, playing Natacha, a mega-goth witch who looks like she’s robbed the contortionist’s wardrobe while on tour for Cradle of Filth: Hair by the Queen of the Damned. Makeup by Frankenstein’s Bride. Chucky’s bride nails. Eccentric behavior of Not Quite Helena Bonham Carter.
Natacha has some demands. Alex will tell her a scary story every night, otherwise she will kill him. Stories shouldn’t have happy endings, only misery, and trust me, that’s a hard review to impress. She has a hairless cat named Lenore, who spies on her; the cat may become invisible, but, as we learn in a horrific scene, its droppings remain fully visible. She has another child-slave to Yasmin (Lydia Jewitt), who I think is the housekeeper, although at first glance she could really use one of those long-handled feather dusters. The kids are in control of the apartment, so is Natacha overconfident or just stupid? Yes! At least the doors are enchanted to prevent the escape. Alex hides to write his stories of forced labor in the library, which stretches endlessly upward with spiral staircases; he flips through books and finds handwriting in them, which may be the key to his and Yasmin’s escape. But escape can’t be easy, can it? (He can not.)
What movies will this remind you of? : Night books is Goose bumps meets Misery Going through The Brothers Grimm.
Performances to watch: Fegley is a pretty sympathetic presence even when given a somewhat shaky character to play – one that isn’t as convincing as Fegley’s role in the title role. Timmy’s failure, which was underrated, a solidly funny children’s film that looks like Henri’s book, except watchable, and much less disastrous.
Memorable dialogue: “Writers. Always so insecure. – Natacha perpetuates a stereotype
Gender and skin: Nothing.
Our opinion : No, Night books isn’t a Stephen King origin story, although it could be, perhaps, if it wasn’t so intentionally aimed at double-digit / pre-teen audiences. King surely has had more twisted things happened to him – a safe guess to make, given he came of age under the Eisenhower administration – than our young protagonist scribe here, who we learn is a social outcast. . The kids at school call him Creepshow, which he doesn’t like, although it’s better than being called Tales from the Crypt or Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The point being, maybe he should just lean on it, and that’s the moral of the story: be yourself, and hell with the enemies. “What makes you weird makes them ordinary,” is Yasmine’s wisdom for Alex, and of course, that’s a perfectly fine message for young audiences to hear, although they shouldn’t completely imitate the boy, because they would probably be better until you were at least 15 to watch Undead.
Visually, tonally, and aesthetically, the film is acceptably a medium-to-light creepy all-purpose fodder with some pretty creative mid-to-low budget sets, unstable CGI creatures, a scene in which the characters are chased through the woods by the beast. scary known as Raimi Cam, and the serious work of his pair of young directors. Ritter’s performance is too listless to really make a successful take-off; he feels overpowered despite the opportunities to turn that basic witch into a delicious madman. The sloppy story veers somewhat haphazardly into literally literary Grimmness for the third act, which like these types of movies always (always) goes on to end in a loud, eventful climax. It is perfect for children who find Goose bumps too tame and Fear street too slash. Keep your expectations low, and you’ll be entertained modestly.
Our call: Stream it. Night books it’s like putting Tootsie Rolls in your candy bag: it’s not a full-size Snickers bar, but neither is it a handful of very hard Pal chewing gum.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work on johnserbaatlarge.com or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.
Flux Night books on Netflix