The topic of gateway horror stories for young people interested in the genre is, depending on who you ask, either a non-issue or a very sensitive issue that requires care, patience, and a firm set of rules. I grew up in a house where horror stories of any kind weren’t really allowed until I was a teenager, but I also went to school with kids who were intimately familiar with the various murders of Freddy and Jason by the time they were seven. While I don’t necessarily want to cast judgement on parental figures at either end of that spectrum out of hand, I’d hazard a guess that the best approach is somewhere in the middle, giving kids a tantalizing peek at the horror genre through stories they can digest through their own lenses.
That’s what “Nightbooks,” the new Netflix original film from writers Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis (based on the novel by J.A. White) and directed by David Yarovesky, sets out to do with its tale of kids descending into a dark world of endless rooms and witches hungry for power. With an instantly endearing cast, a story that delivers on the promise of kid-level horror, and an overarching emphasis on the importance of stories in the lives of the young and the old, it’s a film that achieves what it set out to do and then some, and feels destined to be an introduction to the wide world of horror for more than a few eager viewers.