Book Review: ‘Night Film’ by Marisha Pessl

Night Film is a lushly layered novel about the mysterious death of Ashley Cordova, the daughter of an even more mysterious cult film director.
User Rating: 10

I read a lot of books, but not many of them read me—it seemed as though Night Film was peering into my secret diary of sweet spots and hitting them all. It has everything I love in a novel: murder, mystery, movie history, the forbidden, black magic, complex characters, twists followed by turns, gorgeous writing, and the perfect ending.

Synopsis: On a damp October night, beautiful 24-year-old Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned building 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 thirst 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.

Review: I had the 23-hour-long audiobook of Night Film in my cue for over a year before I finally decided to make the commitment. I have two regrets: that I didn’t do it sooner and that I can’t discover it all over again. Not only is Jake Weber’s modern-style noir reading and voice an absolutely flawless fit, loving Night Film so much ensured that I would hike or do my treadmill every day because that’s the only time I have free to listen to books. So, I lost weight and gained a new favorite author!

Night Film has a lot of layers to it. There’s the central mystery and three main characters (McGrath teams up with a pair of amateur sleuths) but peppered throughout are carefully crafted magazine articles, podcast transcriptions, online comments from Cordova’s rabid fanbase, and movie reviews. While the audiobook experience was wonderful, I was curious enough to also purchase the paperback of Night Film to see how all these things were laid out. There are also photographs, and on the author’s website, you can see Cordova’s movie posters and stills.

Night Film is supposedly in development, but no cast or director has been attached. Riverdale scribe Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is mentioned as the screenwriter on IMDb Pro, but it looks as though there’s been little-to-no movement on actually making the film. It would be a tough one since so much of the book is about a very unique auteur and his style. It’ll be interesting to see how, or if, they can pull it off on the big screen or in a series.

Written by
Staci is known for her work in the horror genre, having been the producer and host of the talk shows Inside Horror, Dread Central Live, and This Week In Horror and she has appeared on Bravo, Reelz, AMC, M-TV, and CNN as a film expert. She is the author of Animal Movies Guide, 50 Years of Ghost Movies, and several horror novels.

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