Everyone needs a good story, even the witches. The story gives us hope and reminds us of possibilities in dark times. But creatures of the dark lands feed on heartrending and depressing narratives. One without a “Happy Ending.” Netflix’s dark fantasy horror, Nightbooks, chronicles the story of an adolescent storyteller in a witch’s captivity. Every night, he is compelled to narrate a scary story to survive. And what does a witch get out of an enchanting drama? Let’s find out.
‘Nightbooks’ Plot Summary
Alex Mosher (Winslow Fegley), a young boy from Brooklyn, New York, holds an artistic talent for writing bewitching scary stories. However, his classmates mock him and refer to him as a “Creepshow.” When none of his friends show up at his birthday party, a lonely and heartbroken Alex decides to burn his nightbooks (books filled with scary stories written by Alex).
Alex takes the elevator to reach the boiler room downstairs. However, the elevator mysteriously halts on a strange floor where Alex finds an eerie apartment, 4B. A television plays Alex’s favorite horror film, “Lost Boys,” and a slice of pumpkin pie lures him inside the apartment. But as soon as he walks in, the apartment traps the adolescent storyteller.
Moments later, the witch, Natacha (Krysten Ritter), captivates Alex and commands him to write a new scary story for her each night. However, Natacha threatens the storyteller, saying if the stories aren’t good or scary enough, it will be the last thing he’ll ever do. Frightened by the warning, Alex decides to narrate the stories from his nightbooks, as he suffers from writer’s block and fails to pen down new stories.
In the witch’s magical apartment, Alex meets another trapped kid, Yazmin (Lidya Jewett). She helps Alex get accustomed to the apartment and its mundane life quickly so that he can concentrate on the task for which he has been held captive.
Major Spoilers Ahead!
How did Yazmin and Alex trick Natacha and run away?
While brainstorming ideas in the apartment’s library, Alex found hidden writings inside age-old storybooks. The girl who scribbled the messages was lured into the apartment by the sight of a unicorn, and when she followed its trial, the witch trapped her. Alex dubbed this enigmatic author “Unicorn Girl.”
After the magical spider shredded Alex’s nightbooks, Alex panicked and sought Yazmin’s help. Yazmin told Alex that Natacha wouldn’t kill Alex but magically transform into dolls. Alex saw the fate of Yazmin’s friends converted into dolls by Natacha. However, while looking at them, Alex noticed that even in their non-living form, these people still had their accessories on their bodies. He connected the dots and found out that the Unicorn Girl had a “unicorn” pendant. But none of the dolls on the rack wore one. It meant that the unicorn girl successfully ran away from Natacha’s captivity.
Alex and Yazmin searched all the books in the library to find out the unicorn girl’s escape plan. At the back of a thousand-year-old storybook, Alex found the recipe for a sleeping potion. Yazmin and Alex planned to use the portion to poison Natacha and then steal the keys from her to run away. However, the sleeping portion had an awful smell, and to hide the stink, they needed an unknown weed.
From the beginning, Natacha had an urge to correct Alex. “Every good story hints at the truth. The more truth, the more powerful the story,” she believed. Hence, in her urge to correct Alex, Natacha gave away the name of the weed that concealed the smell of the portion. However, when Alex and Yazmin poisoned Natacha’s lemon juice, the portion reacted with the liquid and changed its color. It was when the invisible cat, Natache’s little spy beast, Lenore, helped the kids and mixed the portion in Natache’s mist.
Natacha always used the mist when Alex read stories to her, and as soon as she inhaled the poisoned mist, she took the bait. When the portion kicked in, Natacha felt unconscious, and Alex and Yazmin stole the key to the apartment’s exit.
Who was the Unicorn Girl?
Yazmin informed Alex that there were two exits to the apartment. However, one of the exits was magically concealed by Natacha. Hence, the kids were obliged to take the visible exit. When they stepped out of the door, they found themselves in a dark forest that heavily resembled the forest from the German fairy tale Hansel and Gretel.
Yazmin and Alex encountered an evil unicorn in the forest that chased them to the witch’s lair made of gingerbread, cake, and pastries (another reference from Hansel and Gretel).
Following the narrative of the original fairytale, Yazmin and Alex are tempted by the candies inside the house. And soon, they fell unconscious. When Alex woke up, he walked into the storeroom and found Yazmin and Lenore trapped in a candy jail.
In the storeroom, Alex also noticed a sleeping pod that trapped the original candy witch. Natacha appeared and shed light on the mystery. She informed the kids that she trapped the candy witch and harvested her magic. The pod converted the magical essence into a mist that Natacha frequently inhaled to avail herself of the witch’s magic.
Natacha, or the unicorn girl, was taken hostage by the original witch who feasted on children. But Natacha earned her trust and plotted an escape by poisoning her. However, when traveling to the human world, Natacha found out that her parents had left her, and thus she returned back. She imprisoned the cannibalistic witch but needed stories of fear, suffering, and death to keep the witch asleep. For this reason, Natacha abducted kids with storytelling talent to aid her in keeping the witch in a magical sleep.
‘Nightbooks’ Ending Explained
On the night of his escape, Alex hadn’t jotted down any new stories. Thus, to prevent the witch’s awakening, Natacha persuaded Alex to narrate his own life story, “Why did he try to burn his Nightbooks?“
Alex narrated the story, and it was meant to be one with a gloomy end. However, at the moment, Alex changed the ending. After meeting Yazmin, Alex realized that the world was a nasty place that wanted to make everyone ordinary, like the herd. But Alex was meant to be “extraordinary,” and he felt content with being a “Creepshow.” A happy ending disturbed the witch’s sleep, and she woke up to take vengeance from Natacha. The witch defeats Natacha and follows Alex and Yazmin to the apartment.
Yazmin had stolen a bottle of the magical mist, and she used it to absorb the witch’s magic. With the help of the temporary powers, Yazmin exposed the hidden exit. The kids ran away from the apartment and entered the elevator, where the witch followed them.
Alex was going to the boiler room before Natacha abducted her, and thus the elevator stopped on the same floor. Alex and Yazmin ran towards the boiler room, and the witch cornered them. To save their lives, Alex improvised a scary story that lured the witch. However, Alex stopped at a cliffhanger and acted as if he was reading from the notebook. He threw the book in the boiler, and a tempted witch went after it. Taking advantage of the moment, Alex and Yazmin pushed the witch into the boiler and locked her inside. The heat burnt the ungodly witch to ashes (like the climax of Hansel and Gretel).
In the end, Alex and Yazmin reunited with their parents. They remained friends in the human world and supported each other through thick and thin. However, as the two kids discussed the possibility of a happy ending, a visual depicted Natacha in her magical apartment. The body parts of the dolls on the rack trembled a little. That probably suggested that Natacha would transform the prisoners into flesh and blood and use them as slaves. She may also seek vengeance from Alex and Yazmin. However, a sequel to Nightbooks would translate better.
Nightbooks is a 2021 horror fantasy film directed by David Yarovesky. The story is based on a children’s novel of the same name written by J. A. White.