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Review: 'Night Film' offers thrills in the world of cult horror film

Night Film, a novel by Marisha Pessl


Years ago, investigative journalist Scott McGrath received an anonymous tip about the famous horror director Stanislas Cordova. Cordova's films are supposedly so terrifying that theaters have banned them thus creating an underground cult movement devoted to showing his work. McGrath revealed his hand too soon to the press and was destroyed by Cordova, ruining his reputation.

When former piano prodigy Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned building, her death is ruled a suicide, but McGrath believes that this could be his chance at redemption. After all, he's pretty sure that he saw Ashley right before her death. Was she trying to tell him something about her famous father?

Stanislas Cordova hasn't been seen for thirty years. He comes across as a Hitchcock or Kubrick of horror and a JD Salinger of reclusiveness. The fortress of his solitude is his estate, The Peak. Strange and contrasting stories of what goes on at the place only add to his mystery. But fishy things things do seem to happened around him, including the drowning of his first wife.

An aspiring actress from Florida, Nora, and one of Ashley's childhood acquaintances, Hopper, are also drawn into the investigation with McGrath, but they each have secrets of their own. This odd trio bands together to discover the true story of Ashley's life.

"It was never the act itself but our own understanding of it that defeated us, over and over again."

The investigative nature of the story is played up with articles, photographs, and written interviews sprinkled through out. These elements do work to enhance the narrative. Locations also are an integral part of painting the story. Pessl uses them to their full advantage. From mapping out the city of New York to a secret, exclusive club on the coast, each location adds a new layer to the mystery at hand.

Night Film is a fun read with a few twists and turns thrown in. As more dark secrets are uncovered and seemingly supernatural elements come into play, the novel becomes a page-turner until the end. Without giving it away, part of the climax is a visual treat for cinema fans and would play well on the big screen.

Ultimately the ending's satisfaction is open for debate. It's the debate between the connection of an artist to their work. Does not knowing Cordova make his films more terrifying? Would knowing more about him shatter the illusion they've created? Especially with the omnipresent media these days, it's an interesting concept to consider.

Title: Night Film

Author: Marisha Pessl

Publisher: Random House

Publish Date: August 30, 2013

Length: 624 pages

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