Review: Night Film

Posted 6 January, 2016 by Lianne in Books / 4 Comments

Night Film
By: Marisha Pessl
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

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.

Another one of those books that have long been on my TBR queue (two years, maybe?). I must’ve added it to my autumn TBR list a few times but I think the length sort of kept me from picking it up and finally delving into the story. Anyway, I finally got around to reading it last autumn (hurrah!).

It honestly took me a while to figure out my thoughts about this book. The premise was interesting, with the mystery surrounding Ashley Cordova and what led to her death. Admittedly it wasn’t just about the events surrounding Ashley’s last days but rather the mysterious life she led as a result of her father’s cult film status. That aspect of the book–of Cordova’s urban myth status, his creep horror/cult films, Blackboards, and Cordovites–was pretty ominous, a little creepy, especially the further McGrath delves and ends up uncovering some occult dealings. It’s a pretty intricate mystery as a result, trying to figure out exactly what was Ashley dabbling in and what led her to her death in the end, trying to figure out what’s real and what’s not. I also thought it was interesting how the book included news article clippings and web results about the Cordovas over the course of the novel and other bits of information they come across.

Having said that, I did think the book was a slow read, and a bit too long. After a while my attention started to wander as I wasn’t sure where the story was heading–which I suppose was the point of the book, McGrath going down the deep and dark rabbit hole that is the elusive Cordova. But I was getting a bit impatient as things were getting more complex and not enough paying off. I’m not sure if this might be because the characters weren’t enough to hold the story when it takes a detour–they were interesting and flawed enough (omg, terrible life choices at one point from McGrath though, that might be a reason why I was so wary at the end)–or if the pacing was just simply too slow for my liking, especially after reading the fast-paced The Guilty Plea by Robert Rotenberg (review) and the sort-of-quick-paced The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (review).

Either way, I liked Night Film enough. It has an interesting premise and indeed an intriguing story; chilling in all the right places, it makes you question exactly what’s going on, if there’s a rational explanation for events, who is Cordova really. I can imagine this adapted as a miniseries event or a movie, it has all of the chills to make for an intriguing and scary watch. Definitely an atmospheric read to read around Hallowe’en, I’m happy I finally read it.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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4 Responses to “Review: Night Film”

  1. I’m interested to see that you read this as an e-book. The format was such an important aspect of it, I wonder how well it transferred to the electronic format. Like you i thought the book was too long. I liked Pessl’s previous book, which was nothing like Night Film, but this one did not really win me over into the ‘wow’ category.

    • I can imagine how important it must be, with the varying formats and media included in the narrative; thinking about it now, reading it as an eBook must’ve influenced my experience reading it in some way,

      I think I remember reading somewhere that she wrote a previous novel that was very different from this one–I’ll have to check it out 😀

    • Agreed, closure is such an important aspect in any novel and here there just wasn’t enough–especially to validate us reading such a lengthy book!

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