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Starring: Winslow Fegley, Lidya Jewett, Krysten Ritter
OUR RATING: ★★★☆☆
Netflix family fantasy horror directed by David Yarovesky. Nightbooks (2021) follows Alex (Winslow Fegley), a young boy obsessed with scary stories, who gets trapped by an evil witch (Krysten Ritter) in her magical apartment. To avoid certain death, the witch demands that he tell her a scary story every night. Upon meeting the another prisoner, Yazmin (Lidya Jewett), the two team up and use their wits to escape her apartment, a magical labyrinth filled with various dangers.
Our Favorite Quotes:'The thing that makes you weird makes them ordinary. And no one likes to be ordinary. Ordinary sucks. So ordinary people are going to try and take that away from you.' - Yasmin (Nightbooks) Click To Tweet
Alex: [finds himself in a strange apartment] Where am I? Hello? Hello? Anyone? I’m trapped!
Natacha: [to Alex] Boo. Let’s get this over with. I’m a busy witch. Are you useful in any way?
Natacha: [to Alex] Do you see them? The apartment lured them in. That’s what the apartment does. Those children, they were not useful to me. Do you understand? So let’s try this again. Is there anything special about you at all? Any reason I should let you live?
Natacha: Goodbye, Alex.
Alex: I do write scary stories.
Natacha: Did you say, “Scary stories?”
Alex: My Nightbooks. It’s where I wrote my stories.
Natacha: What are you doing with these so late at night?
Alex: I was going to burn them in the boiler room downstairs.
Natacha: Burn them? So they’re not any good. Goodbye, Alex.
Alex: No! They’re good. They’re very, really, really good.
Natacha: [to Alex] Nightbooks, huh? The title better not be the scariest thing about them. I’m going to need a story every night. The story better be good, and it better be scary. Or it’s the last thing you’ll ever do.
Alex: You’re a kid.
Yasmin: And you’re a genius.
Alex: I’m Alex. Who are you?
Yasmin: You’re going to be chatty. Great. I’m Yasmin.
Alex: Are you a prisoner too?
Yasmin: No, I’m on vacation.
Alex: Where is she, Natacha?
Yasmin: I don’t know where she goes, or what she does, but she can go anywhere she wants. Talk about the ultimate passport, this apartment is it.
Alex: Ultimate passport?
Yasmin: The apartment travels all over the world, luring kids in.
Alex: The apartment moves?
Yasmin: When it needs fresh meat.
[as Alex looks disturbed]
Yasmin: Not literally. Jeez. Thought you wrote scary stories.
Alex: Not anymore.
Yasmin: The apartment can do two things. It lures suckers like us in, and it has room to hold, well, anything.
Alex: She does like stories.
Yasmin: Yeah, I thought you said you weren’t into that kind of stuff anymore.
Alex: I’m not. It’s my friend.
Yasmin: Oh, it’s your friend?
Alex: He’d like all this stuff. But me? No. He’s like, he’s really lame.
Yasmin: Yeah, he sounds lame.
Yasmin: So she makes me read her a stupid scary story every night, but she says everything in here’s already been read.
Yasmin: Good thing you’re a storyteller. She needs you, so get to work. You heard her. She wants a scary story tonight. Every day, write as many stories as you can.
Alex: I’m over the whole writing thing.
Yasmin: Then you better get over getting over it, and crank out some new tales. Because if you don’t…
Alex: She’ll kill me. I know.
Yasmin: You’ll be lucky if she kills you. This is your life now. Forget your family. Forget your friends. Focus on being useful to Natacha. You want to live? Write scary stories.
Alex: I’m not going to write anything, because I’m getting out of here!
Yasmin: You’re going to die!
Natacha: [to Alex] Every time. You all try and run. There’s no escape. You understand?
Alex: What is that?
Natacha: Do you know what happens to children who ask too many questions? Do you want to find out?
Alex: [reading from his story “The Playground”] “When Todd’s best friend Jenny died, his heart shattered into a thousand pieces.”
Natacha: Shattered heart? I like it already.
'Friends never let go. Because friends never forget.' - Alex (Nightbooks) Click To Tweet
Alex: “Everyone avoided the Foster Playground at night. They all knew the legend. In the hour before daylight, the dead kids would come out and play.”
Natacha: Nope. No, no, no. Sorry. Nope. Everyone knows that ghosts haunt places that are personal to them, not public places.
Alex: Are you sure?
Natacha: I’m sure.
Alex: “Their skin is deathly white. Some of their clothes date back decades. They push Todd on a swing, higher and higher…”
Natacha: Stupid! Everyone knows ghosts don’t have actual physical hands, so they could never push him on a swing. Amateur.
Alex: The playground is, it’s an interdimensional plane. A mix between the spirit world and the real world.
Natacha: Oh, so you’re a quantum physicist now?
Alex: “Seeing his old friend again makes Todd’s heart hurt. I miss you. I don’t want to let you go. But in death, Jenny discovered something that Todd is about to learn. Friends never let go, Todd. Because friends never forget. I’ll always be with you, here.”
Natacha: [to Alex] A happy ending? Are you out of your mind? No happy endings, you fool!
Natacha: Happy endings are a dangerous thing. Never forget that.
Alex: Did you at least like the story? I mean, until the ending?
Natacha: Writers, always so insecure. You’re still alive, aren’t you?
Natacha: I’m mystified by you, Storyteller. This beautiful darkness dances inside your brain. You should celebrate it. But you run from it. Why?
Alex: I just, I want to be like everyone else.
Alex: Yasmin, I’m sorry. I didn’t know about the “no happy endings” thing.
Yasmin: Todd shouldn’t have gone back for Jenny. He was stupid.
Alex: No, he wasn’t. He was her friend, and that’s what friends do.
Yasmin: Maybe in fairy tales. But in here? She’s right, you know. Happy endings don’t exist.
Alex: [talking to the statues] How did they get you? They got me with a piece of pie and Lost Boys.
Alex: Once upon a time, Alex stared up at the ceiling. Then the ceiling fell on him, and put him out of his misery. The end.
Alex: [reading the notes left in a book] “If I don’t make it out of here, I need someone to know what happened, even if it’s only the characters in these books. I saw a unicorn. People said they didn’t exist, but there it was. I followed it into this apartment, and now I’m trapped by a witch. She’s mean and scary. I just have to do what the witch tells me to until mom and dad find me. There are other kids here. Most of them are nice. I’m scared, but at least I’m not alone.”
Alex: Hey, Yasmin, do you like unicorns?
Yasmin: Yeah, because that’s so me.
Alex: Oh, I thought maybe that’s how she got you. Natacha, I mean.
Alex: I bet you weren’t lured in by a stupid movie and a piece of pie. Stupid pumpkin pie.
Yasmin: Fine. It was doro wat.
Alex: What the hell is doro wat?
Yasmin: Chicken, onions caramelized in spiced butter, paprika, garlic, ginger, berbere spice.
Yasmin: Anyways, I smelled doro wat, and I just so badly wanted to see my āyatē again. But it wasn’t her. It was a witch. An evil, wicked witch. How’s that for a happy ending?
Natacha: [to Alex] Everybody knows it takes two days to grow full fangs. You’re stupid.
Natacha: [to Alex] The grim reaper doesn’t have a pet. Isn’t that right, Lenore?
Natacha: [to Alex] Possessed teddy bears? Really? Took me right out of the story. Every good story hints at truth. The more truth, the more powerful the story. From now on, get your facts straight.
Alex: Where does the blue mist come from? Do you make it? The mist, do you think it keeps Natacha young?
Yasmin: It’s none of our business.
Alex: I mean, she’s really pretty. But her books are ancient, and the apartment looks like a granny decorated it.
Natacha: You useless little twits. You’ve been misbehaving in my garden. This will hurt you far more than it hurts me.
Yasmin: Please, I can explain.
Natacha: And I would let you, if I cared.
Natacha: [to Alex] That is very brave of you, Storyteller, to lie right to my face.
Natacha: [to Yasmin] I almost killed you. If I didn’t need you to clean up the mess, I would’ve. No more chances.
Yasmin: Look, I’m sorry I got you involved. From now on, you help yourself. I’ll help myself.
Alex: Yas, we can get out of here, together.
Yasmin: It’s not Yas! It’s Yasmin.
Alex: I’ve got nothing now. I have to escape! I have no choice!
Yasmin: There are two ways out. The front door, where you came in, and the back door.
Alex: The back door! It goes outside. I saw Natacha go through there. There’s…
Yasmin: But Natacha’s the only one that has the keys to that door. You need to get over this escape nonsense, and write something!
Alex: I’ve been trying!
Yasmin: Try harder!
Alex: I can’t write!
Yasmin: [to Alex] Claire lied to save me. Like you did. Because that’s what friends do.
Alex: I used to love writing scary stories, but then I decided to stop. And now that I have to write, the ideas won’t come to me anymore.
Yasmin: [to Alex] Your plan sucks. We’re not going to find this today. You need to write a story for tonight. Like right now.
Yasmin: Is this the original Hansel and Gretel?
Alex: Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
Yasmin: That’s totally unrealistic. No one would just eat candy off of a strange house.
Yasmin: You have to write a story.
Alex: I don’t think I can.
Yasmin: You’re the only one who can. You’ve got to buy us more time.
Alex: You don’t think I’m weird? That I like to write scary stories?
Yasmin: Weird? Who called you that? Well, they’re right. You are weird. I mean, look at you. But the thing that makes you weird makes them ordinary. And no one likes to be ordinary. Ordinary sucks. So ordinary people are going to try and take that away from you, by calling you names. Like Tryhard, or…
Yasmin: You know what happens if she figures out what we’re up to, right?
Alex: I know what happens if we don’t try.
Natacha: [referring to Alex’s story “Bindweed”] Not that one. You’re happy with that one.
I don’t like you happy. I want a story that’ll make you squirm. Here’s the story I want. Why burn your Nightbooks? You thought I forgot about that, didn’t you?
Yasmin: I’m so sorry. I’m so stupid.
Natacha: Yes, you are. I’ve only been saying that for years. Now you get it.
Natacha: Bindweed keeps liquid from separating. Everyone knows cinaroot hides smells, not bindweed.
Yasmin: Cinaroot, of course.
Alex: Is that cinaroot with an “S” or a “C”?
Yasmin: Okay. Let’s do some science stuff. Tonight, we’re getting out of here.
Alex: [reading from his story “The Cuckoo Clock”] When Scott’s parents bought the cuckoo clock at an estate sale, he thought it was just another old-timey piece of junk. But there was something strange about the clock. Every hour on the hour, the little cuckoo would pop out, and Steve started to notice…
Natacha: Who’s Steve? I thought you said his name was Scott.
Alex: Sorry. Right. Typo.
Natacha: Where are your new stories?
Alex: I’m sorry. The Shredder, it got into my backpack.
Natacha: The Shredder ate your homework?
Natacha: Thorns in my side, since the moment you arrived.
Yasmin: I’ll make you the recipe.
Natacha: Please. You can barely follow a recipe.
Yasmin: Alex, we did it. We beat her. How’s that for following a recipe?
Yasmin: I’m never going to eat peanut butter ever again!
Alex: You can forget about pumpkin pie for me! First food when I get back? Vanilla milkshake!
Alex: The door, it wasn’t the way out.
Yasmin: We’re still in the apartment.
Alex: [as they come upon the candy house] “Every good story hints at truth.” Oh, my God. Hansel and Gretel was real.
Natacha: [as she wakes] Well, well, well! Sleeping Beauty awakes. Oh, wait. Wrong story.
Alex: The mist, that’s where it comes from. You’re harvesting it. Who’s inside that coffin?
Natacha: The original witch. Who, by the way, does eat children.
Alex: We thought you were the original witch. We thought the blue mist kept you young.
Natacha: I don’t need the mist to keep me young. It gives me her magic.
Alex: What? How?
Natacha: I was about your age when she got me. There were lots of us back then. But we weren’t dumb. We knew not to get attached, because she got hungry.
Yasmin: She ate them?
Natacha: Yes. All of them.
Natacha: I pretended to like her. Pretended to want to be like her. I became her favorite. But when I was alone, I plotted my escape. I would get her to trust me. And then, a sleeping potion, and I would be free. I ran straight home. But my parents were gone.
Alex: They left you.
Natacha: I had nowhere else to go, so I came back here. Who cares about them?
Alex: You were just like us.
Alex: So she’s the one who’s been shaking the apartment?
Natacha: If she doesn’t get a story, we’re all going to die. Stories keep her asleep. Stories of fear, and suffering, and death are like sweet lullabies to her. Tell one.
Alex: I don’t have a story.
Natacha: Oh, yes, you do. Tell us the reason that you wanted to destroy your Nightbooks.
Alex: But that’s not scary.
Natacha: It was, to you. All that pain, and fear, and sadness that you’ve been avoiding this whole time. Tell it!
Alex: There once was a boy who loved to write scary stories. Every day, on his free time, he would come up with new ways to scare his classmates. But they just didn’t get his fascination with creepy things. To them, he was just weird. “What’s wrong with you?” they’d ask. Many of them were cruel, calling him names, like Creepshow. Except for Joshua. Josh was his best friend since kindergarten. Alex finishes his latest bone-chilling tale, and he’s excited to share it.
Alex: The boy had written a new story about a haunted house. He, his mom, and his dad had turned his whole apartment into that house. No one showed up, not even Josh. They made him hate the thing he loved most. And they made him hate himself. The real truth is, he was embarrassed to be himself, so he decided to burn his Nightbooks. He swore he’d never write
another story again. He could be a new person. Not weird. Not a freak. He could be normal, like Josh and his friends. Then he wouldn’t be alone.
Alex: The boy lost all his friends, so he decided to destroy that part of himself that created the Nightbooks. Then a witch captured him. She said she liked his stories. The witch was lying. But being captured by her was the best thing that ever happened to me. Because I made new friends, friends who love me for who I am, not for who they want me to be!
Natacha: What have you done? No! No!
Alex: This is our happy ending!
Natacha: No happy endings.
Natacha: [to the witch] You’re awake. Finally. You’ve been asleep here so long, the candy is infecting you.
Witch: You did this to me.
Natacha: I have lived in fear of you for so long. But I am not that little girl anymore.
Alex: Witch fight! Let’s get out of here!
Alex: This is the worst elevator ever!
Alex: [referring to Yasmin] No, let her go! It’s me you want!
Witch: Incorrect. I want both of you.
Alex: Hey, ugly! You like stories? I got stories.
Alex: [after they’ve killed the witch] So that’s why they call you a tryhard?
Yasmin: Shut up, Creepshow.
Alex: Let’s go home.
Yasmin: Maybe we should take the stairs.
Alex: Still don’t believe in happy endings?
Yasmin: I’m starting to.