Monday, October 21, 2019

Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Night Film
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
Random House
Publication Date: August 20th, 2013
Hardcover. 592 pages

About Night Film:

"On a damp October night, 24-year-old Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley's life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror film director Stanislaus Cordova--a man who hasn't been seen in public for more than thirty years. 

For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty seems more than just a coincidence. Though much has been written about Cordova's dark and unsettling films, very little is known about the man himself. 

Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova's eerie, hypnotic world. The last time he got close to exposing the director, McGrath lost his marriage and his career. This time he might lose even more."

Basically, I loved this book. Night Film ticked off almost all of my boxes of things I love in books and so much more. I was in a little bit of a reading slump when I picked up this book and while reading it I completely forgot what a reading slump even is, so if that doesn't tell you how utterly captivating this book was then I'm not sure what will.

I really wanted to read this book when I first saw that it was coming out back in 2013, but as usual I didn't get to it right away. Then I started to see a lot of mixed reviews from people who I share similar taste with saying how slow it was or how disappointed they were with it, so I became more and more hesitant to pick it up and apparently it has now taken me six years to actually get around to reading it. However, having finally read this masterpiece, I'm here to say that this book was as absolutely incredible and just as amazing as I had hoped it would be. I completely understand how it might come across as slow-moving at times, but I loved everything about its pacing--I loved that we got to follow every step with Scott and the people he meets and I genuinely didn't think it was boring at any time. I appreciated that we got to see every dead end and new lead, every new setting and person that Scott meets along the way--it made the journey feel real and the effort put into it really allowed me to become invested in these characters and in figuring out the mystery that they were also trying to figure out. I felt as much a part of this story as the characters within it.

Night Film is a story told solely from the perspective of investigative journalist Scott McGrath, but it is also interspersed with newspaper clippings, images of web pages, and a variety of other bits and pieces that contribute to creating an inventive method of mixed media storytelling that was executed brilliantly. We get to read articles about some of the most important characters of the book, made up interviews with others, visit pages from a website on the 'dark web,' and so many more captivating pieces that had me hopelessly hooked. If you're someone that prefers regular narrative prose then don't worry, that is still the majority style in this book, there's just a bit of creativity thrown in to keep things interesting and unique.

My favorite part of this book was how much it played with ideas of darkness and the true depths of human nature and the psyche. I love exploring these types of topics and I thought Pessl really managed to dive deeply into a topic in such a compelling way. I was constantly thinking about this book or ideas associated with things from this book at any point when I wasn't reading it and it has allowed me to to consider more deeply some of my own thoughts that I didn't know other people shared.

I wasn't honestly as entranced with Ashley Cordova as a character nearly as much as the other characters in this book and I tend to find myself a little frustrated with the 'mysterious/manic girl' trope, but her role in this book was so much more to me than just her as a character whose death was being investigated. She represented a lot of different things to each person in this book, and her story-- as it was slowly unveiled--related so much to Cordova himself and the legends and films that are a part of who he is. I was, however, extremely interested in the man Stanislas Cordova himself and cherished every moment we got to dive more into his story and his films.

I was almost disappointed by the ending--I sort of expected it to happen in the way that it did, but I also held out hope that it would be more--but then something entirely unexpected happened right when you think everything is all wrapped up and then you realize that there is still a mystery at play. I wish we had gotten to hear just a little bit more about some things at the ending, but I understand why Pessl ended it the way she did and with the openness that she did. It still keeps me constantly wondering and trying to understand what could have happened, which satisfies my curious side in a way that is both frustrating and oddly pleasant. I'm not sure if I would change anything about this ending overall.

Overall, I've given Night Film five stars! Although this book wasn't necessarily perfect at all moments, it was a book that I was so unbelievably hooked on and desperate to pick back up as soon as I put it down. I genuinely loved everything about my reading experience with it. For those reasons I think it would be wrong to give it anything other than five stars. 


  1. This has been on my list for a long time too. I'd live to finally get to it, someday... especially knowing how much you loved it!

  2. I love this review! I'm glad this book turned out to be such a winner for you! I like when books incorporate bits of mixed media, too - it can really add so much to the story.