Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl


Everybody has a Cordova story. Cult horror director Stanislas Cordova hasn’t been seen in public since 1977. To his fans he is an engima. To journalist Scott McGrath he is the enemy. To Ashley he was a father.
On a damp October night the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Her suicide appears to be the latest tragedy to hit a severely cursed dynasty. For McGrath, another death connected to the legendary director seems more than a coincidence. Driven by revenge, curiosity and a need for the truth, he finds himself pulled into a hypnotic, disorientating world, where almost everyone seems afraid.

The last time McGrath got close to exposing Cordova, he lost his marriage and his career. This time he could lose his grip on reality. ONCE WE FACE OUR DEEPEST FEARS, WHAT LIES ON THE OTHER SIDE?

Night Film… what can I say about Night Film? My feelings are a bit mixed. I began reading this over 600 paged monster at the end of February and finished it already at the end of March, but I’ve been putting of reviewing it simply because I cannot make up my mind whether I liked it or not.

Night Film follows the character of journalist Scott McGrath who had a successful career before he chose to investigate the wrong man–the legendary cult film director Stanislas Cordova–and soon he was a publicly shamed, poor and divorced man with a slight drinking problem. Doesn’t sound that interesting? Well, it wouldn’t be unless suddenly the daughter of Cordova and a musical prodigy Ashley Cordova commits suicide at an empty construction lot. This gives wind to McGrath investigations as he begins to track down Ashley Cordova’s last movements only to discover that they all lead to him – to Cordova.

Although the premise of Night Film is not that original, but the execution of the novel is superb. The book consists not only of chapters of text but also images, online articles, screenshots of websites and printed letters. Pessl does not only tell you what is found in the documents – she shows them to you. These multimedia elements made the book a visual experience, which I truly enjoyed. The typography and general design of the book were also fantastic. The story of Night Film is twisted – it is beyond trippy, which makes it sometimes a bit hard to follow. The story is more of a psychological thriller than horror, although some of the scenes did really cause me to turn away from the book.

My issue with the book is not so much of the writing or the construction of the plot, because the book kept surprising me time and time again. My issue with the book was more about the feeling after I’d closed the book. In the end I didn’t feel that I’d gained something. The book had gripped me and thrilled me and scared me, but it didn’t leave a lasting imprint. I guess I was hoping for a deeper impact, a real sense of understanding, or something ground-shaking – in other words, my expectations were higher and the book didn’t really live up to them. Nevertheless, Night Film is a very very interesting page-turner and I’d highly recommend it to those who enjoy their thrillers and intense plots.


Because every one of us has our box, a dark chamber stowing the thing that lanced our heart. It contains what you do everything for, strive for, wound everything around you.


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