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Dark fairy tale

Kids’ fantasy Nightbooks is distastefully violent

Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix

Dark fairy tale
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With whispers of “Hansel and Gretel,” the new Netflix film Nightbooks spins a Grimmesque fairy tale in a modern, urban setting. It’s darker than its TV-PG rating suggests, and too violent for its targeted audience. The use of blasphemies and other expletives also detract from an otherwise nicely crafted and occasionally humorous film.

A 12-year-old boy named Alex (Winslow Fegley), who likes to write scary stories, winds up imprisoned in the magical apartment building of a glamorous witch named Natacha (Krysten Ritter). Natacha has already killed many “useless” children, but spares Alex when he reveals his hobby. She demands a new scary story from him each night, or else she’ll kill him, too.

“This beautiful darkness dances inside your brain. … You should celebrate it.” The witch’s words are praise Alex has longed for. A captive girl, Yasmin (Lidya Jewett), also encourages his macabre tales. The film offers no counter to the voices grooming children to explore morbid things.

Intense images of violence against children also make the film unsuitable for viewers under age 12. A visualization of one of Alex’s stories involves dead children with their eyes whited out. In another scene, Natacha uses Darth Vader–like powers to choke Yasmin.

As Alex and Yasmin plot their escape, they discover the apartment’s strange rooms: a cavernous library and a nursery with glowing plants. The film’s a visual masterpiece, but parents should be wary of this eye candy.

Bob Brown

Bob is a movie reviewer for WORLD. He is a World Journalism Institute graduate and works as a math professor. Bob resides with his wife, Lisa, and five kids in Bel Air, Md.



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