• November 27, 2014

Book review: 'Night Film' is gothic thriller

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Monday, August 19, 2013 4:30 am

"Night Film" (Random House), by Marisha Pessl

When reclusive director Stanislas Cordova's beautiful 24-year-old daughter Ashley is found dead under mysterious circumstances, grizzled investigative journalist Scott McGrath takes up the case in Marisha Pessl's gothic thriller "Night Film."

Cordova, modeled on cult filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick and Roman Polanski, is known for horror movies with names like "Thumbscrew" and "At Night All Birds Are Black." His movies seem to affect people strangely and are rumored to show real violence, and he has been disavowed by mainstream cinema. A group of rabid fans dissect his movies obsessively and show them at secret screenings at night.

As McGrath and two 20-something partners he picks up along the way delve deeper into Ashley's death, they all get sucked into the sinister world of Cordova, which includes a psychiatric ward, black magic and a sprawling, deserted compound in upstate New York known as The Peak.

Pessl, who won critical raves for her 2006 debut novel, "Special Topics in Calamity Physics," knows how to keep the creep factor simmering on low while the plot thickens, but ultimately she is more interested in storytelling than scares. She interweaves the narrative with visuals such as reprinted websites, photographs, magazine articles and typed-up notes that all deepen the Cordova mystique.

At nearly 600 pages, keeping track of the novel's twists and turns can be exhausting, but "Night Film" is never boring.

And some set pieces are exhilarating, including one near the end when McGrath finds himself stumbling through an endless maze of perfectly preserved Cordova movie sets, increasingly unsure if he is still investigating Cordova's death, or inside a movie himself.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
  • 2 Don't Threaten or Abuse. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated. AND PLEASE TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
  • 3 Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
  • 4 Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 5 Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 6 Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Welcome to the discussion.

Entertainment Events

Movie Trailers