Genre: Adult Fiction, Thriller
Date Published: August 29th 2013
Publisher: Random House
Buy: Amazon // Book Depository // Random House
Australia: Angus & Robertson // Booktopia // Random House
Follow Marisha Pessl on Twitter
Cult horror director Stanislas Cordova hasn’t been seen in public since 1977. To his fans he is an enigma. 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?
This review is spoiler free.
Night Film centers around investigative journalist Scott McGrath and his curiosity with cult Horror film director, Stanislas Cordova; who no one has seen in years. Scott had a successful career until he received an anonymous tip about Cordova and as a result his investigation lost him almost everything. When Cordova’s daughter reportedly commits suicide Scott is drawn back into his desire to figure out Cordova. There are endless conspiracy theories from Cordova’s devoted fans that are floating around as well as from the people who worked with him – the ones that can be found, anyway. The closer Scott gets to unraveling the truth behind Cordova the more he starts to question everything he’s come to believe.
I had a feeling that I was going to enjoy Night Film because I love books that contain mixed media. I was not expecting to utterly and completely fall in love with it though. I was expecting this to follow the same formula as most Crime novels with the main character taking a solo journey. That didn’t happen with Night Film though and it caught me completely off guard and I LOVED IT. Scott teams up with two people he meets along the way and it turns into one of the best friendships I’ve ever seen. Scott, Nora and Hopper were honestly one of my favourite parts of this book. It’s not often you see such an incredible friendship develop in a Crime Thriller book, but GUYS IT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL AND THE THREE OF THEM MADE ME CRY TWICE. Another thing I loved is that all the witnesses and the people Scott questioned weren’t just forgotten about afterwards they all had an important piece to play and intertwined together perfectly.
It felt as if we’d been to war together. Deep in a jungle, alone, I had relied on them, these strangers. They’ve held me up in ways only people could. […] But we were bonded forever by the history of it, the simple fact they’d see the raw side of me and me of them, a side no one, not even closest friends or family had ever seen before, or probably ever would.
Despite the fact that Scott was a 40 year old male, I was still able to connect with his character. He was extremely likable, which I thought was really refreshing. I know a lot of times the lead male characters in this genre can be extremely jaded, but Scott was extremely genuine. Nora and Hopper, individually were so amazing too. Not gonna lie I have a book crush on both of them. Everyone in this book was so humanely flawed.
Cordova is one of the most fascinating characters ever. Not only is he the definition of an enigma – everyone who’s ever worked with him or for him is just as mysterious. No one will talk about what happened during their time with the director. This book will 100% leave you wishing you could actually watch one of his films, which are supposedly so dark that you have to go underground to find them. At times I forgot that Cordova was a fictional character because he felt so real. This was helped by the use of mixed media. Throughout the book we are shown police reports, newspaper articles, web pages and photos. It really helped bring the story to life and made you feel like you were involved in the investigation. The New York setting and all the locations featured felt so alive too. I have never been to New York, but Marisha made me feel like I had because I could picture everything so vividly.
As much as some people would like to believe, for their own peace mind, that the appearance of evil in this world had a clean cause, the truth was never that simple.
Ashley is as complex and layered as the book is. You will think on several occasions that you have everything figured out, but then you’ll dig in deeper and realise you were completely wrong. I’m normally pretty good at solving mysteries and plot twists, but this book had me second guessing myself every step of the way. It is 100% a head trip. There’s been some marketing for this book that it’s a Horror, but to me it’s more of a Psychological Thriller. That said, there were times were I was wondering if I was wrong about this not being a Horror. It was definitely a genre bender. I felt quite anxious during some scenes.
This book is quite dialogue heavy as people share their Cordova stories, but it worked. The pacing is hard to explain because it was fast and slow at the same time? Everything is super intense and gritty, but you follow every lead that comes up and it’s like a day-by-day rundown. It definitely doesn’t drag though and along with the mixed media, it makes the entire investigation seem much more realistic.
It’s hard to say too much more without spoiling things and one of the best things about this book is discovering everything for yourself. There was a lot of dark and disturbing scenes, but there was also the perfect amount of humour scattered throughout that really helped break up the heaviness. It’s incredibly action packed and there is always something happening. You won’t be able to stop turning the pages.
If you’re like me and primarily read Young Adult, then I think this is a great book to start with if you want to try Adult Fiction. Despite how much of a head trip it is there’s no overly graphic scenes and it kind of reminded me of a YA thriller, but like amped up by about a million with quality of the twists and how intricate the plot was woven together. It’s hard to explain, but if you enjoy darker YA then I really think you would love this!
If you’re the type of person who needs answers then you might be frustrated by the ending because it is very open. I love open endings though and this one was done brilliantly. It suits the entire tone of the book. Just like Cordova the ending is an enigma. You think you’ve solved the mystery, but then you again start to question yourself and everything you heard. You wonder if you trusted the right people and if you were told the truth. This reason is why this book is going to stay with me for an extremely long time. I honestly can not stop thinking about it. I love that you, as the reader, come away with your very own Cordova story.
Mortal fear is as crucial a thing to our lives as love. It cuts to the core of our being and shows us what we are. Will you step back and cover your eyes? Or will you have the strength to walk to the precipice and look out? Do you want to know what is there or live in the dark delusion that this commercial world insists we remain sealed inside like blind caterpillars in an eternal cocoon? Will you curl up with your eyes closed and die? Or can you can you fight your way out it and fly?
– Stanislas Cordova, Rolling Stone, 1977