[Review] Night Film - Marisha Pessl

Title of Book: Night Film
Author: Marisha Pessl
Publisher: Random House
Publication Year: 2013
Language: English
Format: Hardback
Pages: 592

On a damp October night, 24-year-old 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.


Night Film is an adult thriller book by Marisha Pessl. It follows an investigative journalist Scott McGrath who is trying to unravel the mystery behind an enigmatic horror film director Stanislas Cordova. He was after Cordova previously until the director trapped him and discredited him as a serious investigator. Years later Ashley Cordova, Cordova's daughter, was found dead in an abandoned warehouse. This sparks a new interest in McGrath to investigate Cordova again. This time, he won't stop until he gets the answer that he needs.

Night Film is a mixed media novel. It incorporated different types of media including recording, photo, video, or web article to enhance the reading experience. There are symbols scattered throughout the book that the reader could scan to get access of the media. There is actually an app where readers can scan the symbol directly but the app is not available on the app store anymore. We can still access them on Pessl’s website though. It’s different, even though some people said that it’s the one that’s dragging the book.

The main character, Scott McGrath, is an ambitious and arrogant journalist. When first investigating Cordova, he got cocky. He accused Cordova on live TV based on only one anonymous phone call. It’s reckless and in return, his life is falling apart. That is not the only time he’s being reckless which almost botched his investigation.

Scott has two sidekicks, a homeless yet optimist girl named Nora and a young guy named Hopper. Hopper is a gloomy mysterious guy who has a past with Ashley Cordova. While Nora is an aspiring actress who just moved into the city. She was homeless, until Scott offered her a job as his assistant with a spare room in his apartment as the benefit. Nora gives a breath of fresh air to the darkness lurking in this book. Her high-spirited self balances Hopper’s gloominess and Scott pessimistic self. Although Scott McGrath is the main character of this book, Nora is my favorite character in this book.

The highlight of this book is of course Stanislas Cordova. Interesting enough, we never really meet him. We only know bits and pieces of him. He’s like a myth. Yet, Pessl manages to create this mystifying figure. Cordova actually scared me. In all of his mysteriousness, Pessl gives us two alternating backgrounds to his story that is left to us readers to decide which one we want to believe.

For a chunky book, I do feel this book drags a bit. 592 pages is a little too long. Thankfully, some of the scenes are fast paced so at times it doesn’t feel dragged. It is atmospheric though. I don’t know where Pessl got the pictures and articles, but those also scared me. At the same time, I’m intrigued with Cordova’s films. Just how horrific his films are that they are banned. I wish that at least there are trailers available for Cordova’s films.

Night Film has an open ending. Again, it’s left to our interpretation. I’d like to think that Scott finally find the answer to his search of Cordova. At least that’s my ending. Night Film is an engrossing read though. I highly recommend it so you can find out about the truth behind Cordova’s life yourself.


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