Title: Night Film
Author: Marisha Pessl
Release Date: August 20, 2013
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Literary Mystery
Rating: 5 out of 5
When journalist Scott McGrath discovers that Ashley Cordova has committed suicide, he immediately knows that there has to be more going on than meets the eye. After all, Ashley is the daughter of legendary director Stanislas Cordova, a man whose horror films have reached cult status. McGrath investigated Cordova back when he was a reputable journalist, trying to uncover the intensely private and reclusive man’s secrets, and Scott is convinced that Cordova set up his epic fall from grace. Now, Scott is determined to reopen his investigation, and to figure out what Cordova is hiding once and for all.
I’m going to start my review of Night Film by saying that this book is pretty much unreviewable. It’s so gorgeous, so creepy, and so utterly captivating that it cannot be described with mere words. It’s hundreds of times better than anything I could say; no matter how much I write, I simply cannot do this book justice. So with that in mind, I’ll do my best.
From the very first page, Marisha Pessl sucks the reader into Night Film. This is more than just a story; it’s an entire world, full of darkness and despair. It’s a book that pushes the limits of reality. What’s real and what’s not? Scott’s experiences at the beginning of the novel set the stage for what’s to come: The reader is full of doubts and never entirely sure what is actually happening and what’s a product of imagination.
Pessl intersperses the story with newspaper clippings, case notes, and more to make it seem as though the reader is reading some sort of true crime account. These pieces are incredibly well put together and serve to enhance the story. It’s easy to forget, while reading, that this is fiction, as every part of this book leaps off the page so much. Indeed, once the last pages are turned, readers will likely be sad; after reading this book, I’m not sure I’m content living in a world where the secrets of Stanislas Cordova are simply a product of this author’s imagination. There’s a part of me that needs him to be real, that needs to know that there are such mysteries out there in the world.
One of the most amazing aspects of Night Film is the chilling atmosphere. From beginning to end, this book will send chills down your spine. It’s not scary, with creatures jumping out at you from the dark, but just incredibly creepy. Cordova has a cult around him, and a mythos. His last films were so dark and disturbing that no Hollywood distributor would have anything to do with them, and thus they are underground movies. The entire novel resonates, pulses, with that darkness. It’s so incredibly well-written; I cannot find words for how well Pessl conveys her atmosphere and keeps the tension going. Additionally, Pessl’s attention to detail is astounding.
Night Film is a long book. There’s no question of that. Yet it will still leave readers wanting more, as they race through it. Despite its length, I managed to read this book in one sitting, and you should plan on doing so as well. It’s just that compelling and gripping. As the novel progresses, readers will wonder how Pessl can possibly end the book and still leave the reader feeling satisfied. And yet, (perhaps not surprisingly, considering how talented she is) she manages to close the story in a way that feels right.
Have I said anything at all in this review? I don’t really know. Part of that is because it’s good to know as little as possible going into Night Film. You should allow Pessl to surprise, delight, and terrify you with every twist and turn—that’s a huge part of why this novel is just so incredible. Weeks after reading it, I’m still thinking about it on a daily basis, and am planning on reading it again soon. It’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year, and it’s quite possible that it’s made my list of all-time favorites. So, to make a long story short, READ THIS BOOK.