Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl


Title: Night Film
Author: Marisha Pessl
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Release date: August 16th, 2013

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Everybody has a Cordova story. Cult horror director Stanislas Cordova hasn’t been seen in public since 1977. To his fans he is an enigma. To journalist Scott McGrath he is the enemy. To Ashley he was a father.

On a damp October night the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Her suicide appears to be the latest tragedy to hit a severely cursed dynasty.

For McGrath, another death connected to the legendary director seems more than a coincidence. Driven by revenge, curiosity and a need for the truth, he finds himself pulled into a hypnotic, disorientating world, where almost everyone seems afraid.

The last time McGrath got close to exposing Cordova, he lost his marriage and his career. This time he could lose his grip on reality.


This book plays with your head from the first page to the last one and I LOVED that. Although the mystery wasn’t scary per se, it creeps up on you. The incredible atmosphere Pessl was able to create based on Córdova and his legacy kept me on my toes. This is an intricate psychological thriller and mystery that will make you doubt everything. I understand it is not for everyone and some will find it very unrealistic and gimmicky, but if you are willing to let go and allow the story and Pessl’s writing carry you, I can’t recommend it enough.

The mystery was very unique because it takes some twists and turns I wasn’t expecting. I loved that you are always second-guessing and that you don’t know what’s real and what’s not because of the unsettling legacy and elusiveness of Córdova. The atmosphere around this made-up filmmaker is so well crafted many people have to look up if he is real or if he is not. That’s definitely my favorite thing about this novel. It’s a little sad that he isn’t real because I wanted to watch one of his films to have my own “Córdova story”. More than a character, he becomes a mood or a force that’s lurking behind our main characters’ actions and motivations. It’s unsettling and thrilling at the same time whenever they discover a bit more about him and Ashley, his daughter and the primary focus of the investigation. She is also an enigma, part of the Córdova legacy for sure, and her presence throughout the novel is very poignant. You don’t know if she’s a demon or an angel, but you definitely want to find out.

“Time leeches most horror and pain from our memories”

As a main character and narrator we have McGrath, a middle-aged divorced journalist with a daughter, A.K.A. my complete opposite. He was a bit of a jerk and I couldn’t relate to him at all at first. Later on, the novel got way more psychological and I was amazed by how much I enjoyed his insights. Did I like him as a person? Nope. Did I like him as a character and narrator? Yes, very much! Nora and Hopper were okay, they felt real, but I wish I could have known more about them. The three of them complemented each other in the investigation pretty well and I liked seeing how they worked together.

“It’s a terrible thing, to lie. It’s a field you keep seeding and watering and plowing, but nothing will ever grow on it”

This is a mixed media book, meaning it has photographs, fictional articles and Wikipedia entries about the characters and the events surrounding the mystery between the pages of the novel. I found that really fun and it made it feel more real, but in the end I could have actually done without it all. It doesn’t really add anything essential to the story, but it does help to build the atmosphere a bit. I know I would have enjoyed it more if I had the print copy.

“Life was a freight train barreling toward just one stop, our loved ones streaking past our windows in blurs of color and light. There was no holding on to any of it, and no slowing it down”

When I finished this novel my head was spinning. I did get my “Córdova story” after all because he became very real… well, more likely his message did. This book can mean different things for everyone, but for me it was about getting rid of our fears by confronting the darkness and seeing the world of possibilities. The writing is great, though I admit it was a a little repetitive at times and some things were far-fetched, but overall, it was a creepy and intricate story that I truly enjoyed. To quote the novel itself, it was Sovereign. Deadly. Perfect.

8 thoughts on “Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

    1. I was scared of the size, but then I was glued to the pages and it flew by. Still, it’s long so it takes some days to get through no matter how fast you want to turn the pages, but please read it when you feel adventurous 😛

      Liked by 1 person

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