Book review: Night Film

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

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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 Stanislaus 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.

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This was going to be a mini review, but it turns out I have a lot to say so it gets it’s own review. I think my issue with thrillers is that I’m never really thrilled. Was this book bad? No. But it wasn’t scary or thrilling for me for a large portion of it.

Fair warning: this review is mainly me being really nit-picky about things. But I did actually enjoy this book.

I would say a good 75% of this book is the main characters going from person to person, and these people just happened to tell the characters what they needed to know with very few reservations. Or they had reservations, but would tell the characters anyway. It made for a lot of repetitiveness.

  • Person A tells us a story involving person B
  • Let’s think about this information
  • Let’s go find person B
  • They told us a story involving persons C, D, and E
  • Let’s track them down and find them
  • Person A has mysteriously disappeared
  • Repeat for 75% of the book

Related to that, a lot of the plot points hinge on coincidence, which I normally don’t mind, but they were too coincidental at some points.

I’ve also never been sold on the “this movie is so scary, people literally had a heart attack while watching it” thing, or the “what is this movie was real and the actors weren’t acting” thing, or the “this movie is so hard to find, there are only five copies in the world” thing, even in real life. Whenever I see a headline that says something like that, I roll my eyes. It just seems cheap or something? Like okay, I get it, Cordova is this international sensation. Stop telling me he is and actually show me why.

Also the author italicized so many words and it distracted me. Italicization can be useful to add emphasis but it should only be used sparingly and not to just highlight the word you want highlighted in every sentence. I know that’s a petty thing, but it started to grate on me. I did it throughout this review, and it was annoying, right?

ALSO, the 19-year-old female sidekick just had to confess her love to the 43-year-old male main character, because this is a thriller and that’s what happens. There was no build-up, no chemistry, nothing except him caring for her in a “I’ve been stuck with this dummy and now I have to take care of her” kind of way.

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So what did I like?

It was interesting. I feel like I’ve just ragged on it, but it did interest me. The story and mystery were interesting, they just could have been told in a more interesting way.

The plot picked up once the gang of characters broke into the house (I cannot for the life of me remember what it’s called but if you’ve read the book, you know the one). But those were the only truly entertaining parts for me. If the whole book was written like that, it would’ve easily been at least 4 stars.

I enjoyed the multi-media aspects of this book. I thought they added to the story and made it interesting to read. I thought the paranormal aspect was interesting and a fun twist.

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Would I recommend this? Maybe. If you read thrillers, then probably. If this was on your radar or TBR, then probably. But if you don’t read thrillers, then probably not.

But those are just my thoughts! What about you? Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? Do you agree with me on anything? Let me know!

Ally xx

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13 thoughts on “Book review: Night Film

  1. I absolutely see where you’re coming from! I read this a couple years ago, I think, and it definitely doesn’t work as a thriller. I think it’s more of a mystery, I particularly enjoyed the world where Cordova would exist and those things would be real. I wonder if I’d like it if I read it again, or if I’d have the same issues as you! Great review. It’s also so cringey when the young woman inevitably is attracted to the older guy MC. I didn’t even remember that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it works better as a mystery as well! It feels a lot more like a detective novel than a thriller, except when they’re in Cordova’s house. I agree that I really enjoyed that part!

      Thank you! 💕 It’s always so awkward! I was like, no, Nora, he’s almost three times your age!!! Stop it!!!


  2. This was *exactly* my thoughts about it- it wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t thrilled by it. I was left feeling pretty underwhelmed tbh (so yeah, I got pretty nitpicky about it too 😉 ) haha love your point about italicisation. I did like the multimedia aspect too though. Excellent review!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I felt much the same about this one, though I 2-starred mainly because I have never been so annoyed by italics in my life. I enjoyed the horror-ish moments and loved the multi-media element, but was also frustrated by how easily the mystery was solved with everyone spilling all the necessary info as soon as they initiate a conversation. And the camaraderie in the detective group seemed kind of forced and overly Whimsical, which didn’t help. None of it really felt realistic to me at all, so even though I appreciated the concept and some of the scenes, I just wasn’t convinced overall. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahhh so glad you agree! YES the italics were the most annoying thing. Never has an italic bothered me as much as in this book. I totally agree, the horror parts were the best.

      YES the group of them was so weird! I was never convinced of it. I really enjoyed Nora as a character, but the three of them as this ~whimsical~ detective group didn’t work for me. Like you said, it just seemed super forced.

      Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

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