Night Film book review

REVIEW: Night Film, by Marisha Pessl

Night Film is a story that doesn’t want to be discovered by just anyone. The book – hefty, at almost 600 pages – exudes an air of intriguing gravitas, from the haunting image of a girl trapped within the maze etched on to the front cover to the quote from Stanislas Cordova that decorates the back. Indeed, the novel opens with the confident assertion that ‘Everyone has a Cordova story’.

Cordova? Who’s he?

Excellent question – and one that the novel’s protagonist, investigative journalist, Scott McGrath, is determined to answer.

Night Film follows McGrath’s quest to uncover the truth about Cordova, a cult horror film director whose opus of movies have been deemed life-changingly unnerving. With the movies forced underground – and a hardcore base of global fans who keep Cordova’s name alive – the elusive director, who hasn’t been seen in decades, is still a vivid presence in popular culture. McGrath has previously attempted to find out the truth about Cordova – resulting in the journalist losing his job and his reputation – but now, with the sudden suicide of Cordova’s daughter, Ashley, McGrath is determined to finally uncover the truth.

In his quest for truth, McGrath is joined by Nora, an impressionable budding actress, and Hopper, who knows more about Ashley then he is letting on. The three of them make for an unlikely team but their juxtaposing natures – McGrath’s weary realism, Nora’s wide-eyed innocence and Hopper’s impulsive romanticism – make for an interesting fit. The plot unfolds quickly: this is a story that will leave you hanging on by your fingertips, determined to reach the end.

The novel is entirely unique in that Pessl has created a whole back-log of ‘real’ information surrounding Cordova and McGrath’s investigation: from a typed transcript of the chilling anonymous phonecall that first alerted McGrath to Cordova’s shady world to the admission notes of Ashley to a mental hospital and Cordova’s last interview (with Rolling Stone, FYI). It all makes the story feel real and totally, utterly compelling. Even more impressively, Pessl has taken it one step further – a special app, activated by an image within the book, allows the user to access exclusive Cordova content.

With more twists and turns than the maze depicted on the front cover, the plot never tires or gets (too) convoluted. By the last section of the novel – as McGrath, Nora and Hopper finally make their way to Cordova’s reclusive mansion – you will be unable to put the book down. Seriously.

If you’re a fan of edge-of-the-seat thrillers this may not be the book for you but if you relish in books that linger in the mind long after you’ve put them down  – the creative, the previously-unseen – then find a copy and devour.

Night Film, RRP £16.99 by Marisha Pessl (Random House) is available to buy here.


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