Tuesday, January 28, 2014

night film

night film
marisha pessl
random house
published 2013

On a damp October night, beautiful young 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 Stanislas 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.

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I picked up Night Film.  It was one of those books that I first saw in the emails the library send out of book recommendations.  I'd never heard of Marisha Pessl.  I'm not sure that her acclaimed first book Special Topics in Calamity Physics (despite being described as a murder mystery) is a book I would necessarily pick up and enjoy, but the synopsis of Night Film intrigued me.  Then reader friends began reading the book and saying only vague mysterious bits of praise.  So I got the book on my Kindle and promptly forgot about it.  When it came time to compile my TBR lists for 2014 I decided I would get down and read Night Film and see what all the fuss was about.

Although....you don't really hear too much.  It's not a mainstream book.  It's not side-by-side with the James Pattersons and John Grishams.  It didn't even hit the type of frenzy that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo did.  It's odd.

Nonetheless, on to the review.  Reading Night Film was like experiencing A Clockwork Orange for the first time.  You're not entirely sure what's happening.  What is real and what is fantasy.  You're only sure that something is fucked up.  It reminded me of stories of Alfred Hitchcock.  I remember being pretty young and reading about Alfred Hitchcock giving a 6-year-old Melanie Griffith a wax doll replica of her mother Tippi Hedren in a wooden coffin as a Christmas or Birthday present.  It was the creepiest thing I'd ever heard of.  During the entire book I pictured Cordova as Hitchcock.  I spent much time wishing the movies Cordova made were real so I could run out and watch them.

And the book was terrifying in that you have no idea what's going on.  Like black and white horror movies where you don't actually see the monster eating the victim because it's off camera, but you know it's happening and somehow that's more terrifying than seeing it.  About two thirds into the book I was captivated by the insanity, worried I would have nightmares when I went to sleep.  (For the record I didn't, but I did read until 2 a.m.)

Of course there were things that bugged me.  If you've ever read my reviews of James Patterson books I hate unnecessary italics.  Marisha Pessl loves them.  They are everywhere and in the beginning I could barely get past it.  And then there were the obvious things that were happening that McGrath didn't pick up on.  Inez Gallo's nickname, the effects of the greenhouse & the repercussions of McGrath's missing research.  But I suppose with everything that was going on in McGrath's life at that moment things just got past him.

When I got to the rather abrupt ending it made mention of the Night Film app.  I wish it had mentioned that in the beginning so I didn't have to search through my ebook to find the places where I could interact with the app.  But I found the extra content to be kind of dull and cheap compared to the book.  The voice acting was awful and just ridiculous.  There is a 'diary' though that was quite a gem.

I'm not sure if this makes me a Pessl fan, but maybe someday if I see Special Topics in Calamity Physics at a used bookstore I might pick it up.


  1. I love this book and I love Pessl - although sometimes I think her style is indeed too pretentious. But Night Film is one of the bests I read last year :)

    1. Have you read her other book? I'm curious, but I'm not sure if I'm curious enough to pick it up!

    2. Yes, I've read her first novel, Special Topics of Calamity Physics. It's not as good as Night Film, but pretty smart too. The main heroine is likable, and the twist ending is interesting :) But it's a bit lengthy so make sure you have enough time XD

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. The book sounds interesting, although I really disliked Clockwork Orange. I may just have to check it out and I'm glad I'm forewarned about the italics.


leave me some love. or hate. don't mind either, but if you leave the hate be prepared. i bite back.

Disqus for know-it-not-so-much