‘Nightbooks’ Review: This is not a series of dozen volumes, but independent stories

It rains on the house. In one of these apartments, Alex (Winslow Fegley of Timmy Fallier fame) is furious. He’s a horror fan who is, of course, too young to see all the damn excellent movies.

The posters advertise on his bedroom wall, so there might be questionable parents here. But that’s not why he was crying. He rejected all the Fangoria magazines, took all the terrible stories he wrote, and vowed to burn them.

His parents spoke muffled in another room as he slipped out of the apartment into the elevator.

He wanted to go down to the basement. But there was a rumbling and flickering of lights and a strange, intangible mumble. And he found himself on the fourth floor. Which was an apartment that seemed out of date. He had really no choice but to get out of here because the buttons weren’t working. And the movie had to do its programming too.

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The apartment is full of creepy old dolls and cobwebs, and dim lighting. An old console TV flashes and plays The Lost Boys, a cat bear for Alex. There was a piece of pumpkin pie next to him, and he bit into the big old bite like a total grater. THIS IS A TOXIC CAKE, ALEX.

He comes out and wakes up to the incredibly violent Kristen Ritter, who plays Natacha, a mega-Gothic witch who looks like she stole a tour operator’s wardrobe for Cradle of Filth: Hair by the Queen of the Damned. Frankenstein bridal makeup. Chuckie’s bridal nails. Eccentric behaviour not by Quine Helena Bonham Carter.

Natacha has demanded. She has hairless hair named Lenore, who spies on her. Alex would tell her scary stories every night, or she would kill him. Stories don’t have to have happy endings, just bad luck, and trust me. She’s a harsh critic to impress.

Cats can be invisible, but as we learned in one gruesome scene, their poop is still fully visible.

She has another child slave in Yasmine (Lydia Judith), who I think is a housewife, though it looks like she could use one of those long-handled vacuum cleaners. The kids run the apartment, so is Natacha overconfident or just stupid? Yes indeed! At least the door is bewitched to prevent escape.

Alex is open to writing stories about forced labour in the library that climbs an endless spiral of stairs; he flipped through several books and found a manuscript inside that might have been the key to his and Jasmin’s escape. But escaping isn’t easy.

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No, The Night Books isn’t a story about Stephen King’s origins, though it might be if it wasn’t intentionally aimed at a double-digit audience.

Even more perverted things are bound to happen to Raja – a safe assumption considering he came of age during Eisenhower’s reign – than our young protagonist, an employee here whom we learn is a social outcast. The kids called it a Creepshow, which he disliked, though it was better than storytelling from the basement or the Alfred Hitchcock Prize.

The point is, maybe he should lean on it, and that’s the moral of the story:

Just be yourself and a damn hater. “What makes you weird is usually what makes you” is Jasmin’s wisdom to Alex, and it’s undoubtedly the perfect message a young audience can hear. However, they shouldn’t be imitating the boy entirely because they might be better off waiting. At least 15 to see Dead Alive.

Visually, sonically, and aesthetically, the film is a fine medium-sized spooky bait kettle. With some creative mid-range decor, some CGI ceramic critters. The character is chased through the jungle by a terrifying beast named Raimi Cam and profound work by a young director.

Ritter’s performance is too numb to achieve an actual climb; he felt reluctant, though there was the possibility of turning this head wizard into a fine cook.

Somewhat coincidentally, the jovial plot diverts to the literal literary Grimmons of the third act, which, as it is always (always) referred to in this type of film, becomes a violent and hasty climax. It’s perfect for kids who find goosebumps too tame and Fear Street too weird. Keep your expectations simple, and I will humbly entertain you.

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Book a night like Tootsie Rolls in your pocket for a trick or treat: it’s not a full-size Snickers bar, but it’s not nearly as strong as Pal Pal Rock Gum.