In the kids’s horror film “Nightbooks,” a preteen boy is held hostage by a malevolent witch. Alex (Winslow Fegley) is a shiny child whose ardour lies in writing scary tales. At the beginning of the film (on Netflix), Alex renounces the pastime, fearing it makes him a freak present. On his approach to burn his notebooks, nonetheless, he’s lured into the enchanted residence of Natacha (Krysten Ritter), who threatens to kill Alex until he spins her a brand new story each night.
For Alex, Natacha’s house is a darkish and sinister jail, however it is usually a Victorian wonderland. Venture by the precise door and also you may discover a huge library, a magic backyard or a unicorn forest. Alex quickly befriends Yasmin (Lidya Jewett), one other baby held captive within the house, and collectively the Hansel and Gretel pair plot their escape.
Several moments in “Nightbooks,” directed by David Yarovesky and based mostly on a guide by J.A. White, are genuinely horrifying. During some sequences, notably those who middle a creepy-crawly menace known as a Shredder, I used to be tempted to cowl my eyes. The director David Yarovesky has a knack for methods of sunshine — shadows, neon evening imaginative and prescient and movement forged in silhouette — and the film is at its most deliciously chilling when it favors visible aptitude over soar scares.
In its stability of kid-centric themes and unsettling photographs, “Nightbooks” follows a path paved by horror standouts like “Coraline” and the early works of Tim Burton. Yarovesky’s fairy story spookfest in the end doesn’t measure as much as the moody ingenuity of these reference factors, however its devotion to frights makes it memorable.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes. Watch on Netflix.