Night Film by Marisha Pessl
I’ve been putting off reviewing Marisha Pessl’s Night Film mostly because I loved it so much that I honestly had no idea where to begin. Do I start with a plot summary? Do I talk about how completely unpredictable the book was with all its twists and turns? Do I mention the integration of media clippings that served as a way to give necessary background information that had me completely spellbound? Do I just give up entirely and tell you to read it for yourself? I did that with a friend and she took my advice and loved it.
Night Film is the second book by Marisha Pessl. Her first, Special Topics in Calamity Physics has been a longtime favorite of mine ever since I read it about 8 years ago. I actually mentioned Pessl’s first book in the post I wrote on Donna Tartt’s The Secret History (another of my top book picks). As soon as I realized Pessl had a new novel out, I knew I had to read it. My only hesitation was its length so I read a few shorter books before tackling Night Film. Silly me. I shouldn’t have waited at all to read this book because it took me about 36 hours to read it from cover to cover. I could not stop reading. It was like an addiction. Most of the chapters were rather short so I breezed right through them. It’s funny because at one point I told myself “after this chapter, I will stop reading.” That chapter was then a bajillion pages long (just kidding it wasn’t that long but it was a huge chunk of the book) so when I finished that chapter I said “welp, I might as well stay up and rest.” And then it was 3 a.m., I’d finished the book, and my brain had exploded and turned into mush. Super satisfied mush, though.
Night Film follows Scott McGrath as he searches for the truth about cult horror-film director Stanislas Cordova. Scott McGrath has investigated Cordova before and it cost him his career and credibility. McGrath picks up where he left off after Cordova’s daughter is found dead from an apparent suicide. With help from two unlikely sidekicks he meets along the way of his investigation, McGrath finds himself learning more and more about the dark world of Cordova and his cult films with their underground following.
As I mentioned before, Pessl integrated media clips in various forms to give background information about her characters as well as past happenings. I found myself so mesmerized by these portions of the book because it would give you a big chunk of information all at once. They were highly effective as a way to cover wide spans of time or specific and detailed information that would prove to be crucial to the reader’s understanding of the plot that unfolds.
This book really got me right from the get-go. It started off on an eery note that begins under the surface and soon pushes is way to a head. I think that part of the reason it immediately held my attention was Pessl’s portrayal of New York City. I have to admit, I always like reading books about New York City and thinking “I go there frequently, I know that area well.” Creating a haunted run around the Central Park Reservoir certainly got my attention. The city is a perfect backdrop to McGrath’s search for answers.
I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever been so determined to get answers as I was reading Night Film. I HAD to know the truth, whatever that meant. The maddening thing (and I mean that in a good way) is that you never really knew if what you were getting was the truth. Just when you though you had an answer, there’s another twist that blows the facts you thought you knew right out of the water. Even when there were instances that I felt extremely anxious/freaked out/like my brain couldn’t handle it, I had to keep reading. I knew for a fact I wouldn’t be able to go to sleep without finishing the book. Then it was about 3 a.m. in the morning. But at least I felt at peace. Or at least as much peace as one could possibly feel after surviving the roller coaster of a book that was Night Film.
I highly urge you to read Night Film. Do not feel daunted by the sheer length of the book. Do let yourself become completely engrossed in Cordova’s twisted world. And once your brain has felt thoroughly rattled, please let me know what you thought about this engrossing and fascinating book.