Review: Night Film

Night Film

Night Film
By Marisha Pessl
(Random House, Hardcover, 9781400067886, August 20, 2013. 624pp.)

The Short of It:

A completely absorbing literary thriller that’s both smart and alluring.

The Rest of It:

Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned building on a cold October night. Her death is ruled a suicide but investigative journalist Scott McGrath thinks otherwise. As the daughter of Stanislas Cordova, known for his horror films and his reclusive nature, Ashley’s mysterious death sparks the interest of many, including all of the fans who call themselves Cordovites. As Scott assembles a team to assist him in the investigation, his love of Cordova’s work and his obsession over the director himself, puts him front and center. Danger lurks everywhere and as they dig deeper into a life that has basically been in hiding for more than twenty years, the answers they find surprise them.

This novel will most likely be my favorite book of the year. I felt it within the first fifty pages and after 600+ pages, the feeling stuck This is the type of novel that makes reading an experience. I can’t deny  it, I totally ignored my family while reading this one. The kids and Hub were left to forage for food, laundry piled up and the Otter Pup tried to sit on my head to get my attention. It’s hard to say if everyone will have this same reaction. I’ve seen a few reviews and some were less enthused by it, but there was much to love.

I’ll point out just a few of the things that made this a five-star read for me:

  • Top-notch writing
  • Engaging, likable characters
  • The puzzle aspect of the story
  • It’s all dark and drizzly and the cult-horror thing worked for me
  • The inclusion of web pages, articles and the like to move the story along
  • The fact that the films within the story were all made-up yet seemed fully fleshed out
  • The back story of all the key players
  • Pessl’s ability to toss red herrings in over and over again and somehow not lose the reader along the way
  • Reading it felt absolutely forbidden which made it all the more appealing

In the midst of all this darkness, there is humor. McGrath’s self-deprecating nature made for some humorous moments and his love of the genre shines through, which makes his quest to find the truth even more plausible. it could have been edited down a bit but I didn’t mind since I ended up stretching it out for as long as I could anyway. In fact, I didn’t want it to end. As soon as I finished, I immediately had to talk about it with others who read it and that conversation even included possible casting choices for the movie, because I know it will be made into a film. Actually, I did see a listing for it on IMDb but I am not seeing it as of this writing.

That said, this entire review is based on how it made me feel while reading it. it sent shivers up my spine and there were times where I gasped out loud. It’s the type of book that will make you fall in love with reading all over again. I will say this, the inclusion of photos and news articles makes this book one that you want to read in print. Turning the page and seeing an obituary is quite startling. I don’t think you’d have the same reaction if someone just read it to you (audio) and I am not sure how those pages would translate in e-book form.

If you pick it up, let me know. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Library Thing
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

40 thoughts on “Review: Night Film”

    1. I know some readers found it a tad long but I thought it was wonderful and rationed out pages so that I could spend more time with it. I typically saved it for bedtime reading and relished every creepy moment.


  1. Have you read her first novel and are able to compare the two? Because I was kind of disappointed with her first and are questioning whether to read this one because of that. Night Film does sound really good, though.

    1. I did read Calamity and although I did enjoy it, it was a completely different kind of book. Totally different in feel. I was sort of surprised when Night Film was as suspenseful as it was knowing what I knew about her first novel. I think you would love this one.


  2. I’ve started reading Night Film on my iPad, but after you mentioned how it has a different effect on print, I might just buy a hard copy! I find there’s just some books that are best left in their traditional form. Great review. I’m about 100 pages in, and I haven’t really gotten into it yet, but that’s probably because I’m reading it during bedtime. When do you think it really picks up?

    1. You are at page 100? I’d say it picks up pretty soon. I remember it getting really good around 150 or so but I was reading in print so I am not sure what that equates to in a digital copy (font size and all).


      1. I was reading a digital copy, so I think it was actually around Page 60 in the print version. However, because so many people have been raving about the graphics on the print version, I bought a hard copy yesterday! And it was signed by the author 🙂 I was pretty happy, and you’re right, it’s visually stunning. I’m now around Page 100, and it’s picking up. Great review!

  3. Wow! You have made this sound like a definitely must-read! I’m definitely getting my hands on a copy of it. I just read an article about the author in my copy of Elle and she sounds like smart cookie. Great post, Ti! I loved when you said that this is the type of book that makes reading an experience 🙂

    1. What’s really impressive is the film world she created in the book. All made up, but seemed so real.


    1. It would make a fabulous October read. Or, if you are doing the RIP VIII challenge, I’d throw it in with your pile.


    1. Kathy, it’s not puzzling at all. It’s just a really good, atmospheric read. A little creepy, very mysterious and if you love film making, you will get into it.


  4. I loved this book so hard. I didn’t care that it was long, and I didn’t care if it was trippy. Like you and a few others have said, it made me glad I am a reader.

    1. I was so sad when it ended. I spent one entire concert at the park talking to everyone about it. I made people buy it. I do hope they do the film version. I saw it on IMDb but now the listing is gone ;(

      I do think it would have been a bit more fun if they had made some of those web pages live. I went to some of them to see if they were actual web pages and they weren’t. It would have totally freaked me out if they had been!


  5. It’s on my never-ending list but I’m hoping I’ll get to read it for Carl’s RIPVIII (9/1-10/31) – glad you loved it – sounds amazing.

  6. I can’t wait to start this one – I’ve been looking forward to it ever since you started talking about it!

  7. “This is the type of novel that makes reading an experience”. That’s what got me, Ti. I’ve been curious about this book but seldom read such chunky books. You have me even more curious and now I really do want to read it. I want that experience!! Fantastic review!!

  8. Will it give me nightmares? I’m SO intrigued by this one but something about it makes me wonder if it might keep me up at night (even though I’m an SUV junkie…). I have a HPB gift card and they’re having a sale today so I’m thinking of picking this one up if they have it in stock. And for what it’s worth, I ALWAYS rather know how a book made someone feel than what it’s about.

    1. No nightmares. This one is creepy with them talking about the dark films this guy created, but it’s not like IT or The Shining, you know?


  9. How could I not add my name to the library hold list after reading your review??? It’s pretty long, so I decided to check out Special Topics in Calamity Physics in the meantime.

  10. You caught me when you said “likely favorite book of the year.” I better get on it! Though I didn’t know it was 624 pages. Sometimes I have trouble with chunksters, but you’ve perked my interest

  11. Ti and Anyone who has read the book,

    Is there any kind of torture of women in the book? I’m trying to avoid anything really dark right now. I sometimes wish books came with specific warning labels but I guess that would ruin the plots.


    1. No, there is no torture in Night Film and any horror or violence alluded to, is only in reference to the films Cordova makes. So it takes on a fictional air, if that makes any sense. I found it to be quite mild actually. There is talk of murder and the like but you don’t read about any of it in detail. Just movie stuff and made-up fan talk.


  12. I read this after reading how much you loved it. I did like it, tho not as much as you did! I was a bit disappointed in the ending – don’t know what I wanted or expected but it was a little off for me . . . all in all, it was a good read!

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