Night Film by Marisha Pressl

Fazioli pianos. Ravel and DeBussy. A red coat which sparks immediate interest with anyone who has see it before. A girl who leapt to her death for unknown reasons, and her father who was a reclusive director of horror films; these are a few of the components of this richly imagined mystery.

We follow investigative journalist Scott McGrath, a coat-check girl named Nora, and a strung out twenty-something year old boy named Hopper as they strive to uncover the mystique surrounding Stanislav Cordova, film director, and the circumstances which lead to his daughter Ashley’s death.

Alternating between the pages of text are pages as if lifted from the Internet. It is an extraordinarily effective technique to make the story seem as if it actually happened, especially in this world of today’s technology. And we can only be grateful it isn’t real, for as the story unfolds it is one of unspeakable horror.
What is more terrifying than Black Magic? Spells and evil? Only the idea of a deal being made with the devil, and worse yet, a deal involving one’s own child.
I almost can’t continue with only 100 or so pages to go. I think I’ve got the idea, and yet? How can I rest without knowing the conclusion for certain?
So, I have finished the book. And while it didn’t go fully into the darkest places I’d imagined, it danced around their edges, and in the dancing I felt dizzy. Not satiated by a clever mystery as much as left hanging to sort things out for myself; with Cordova, in a small hut on an obscure island, where he could at last tell his story. It took us a long time, and many head games, to get there.

21 thoughts on “Night Film by Marisha Pressl”

  1. I read this one earlier this year, and I really liked it for about the first 2/3 of the book… Then it started to break down for me. I thought for a while it would be a solid 5 star-read, but little things kept eroding away until I ended with a sense of around 3.5. It was definitely a good and engaging read, and parts of it were just brilliant, but by the last portion of the story I felt like the author was getting muddled trying to hold together too many diverse strands and like maybe an editor decided to have a bit of a snooze and let things get messy. At various points some really obvious stuff crept in that seemed out-of-place to me compared to the obfuscation of so many of the details.

    Please don't get me wrong: I liked it overall and recommend it to others, but the wind was slowly let out of my metaphorical sails the closer I got to the end. Perhaps, though, that is just me, as most people seemed to really, really love it. Perhaps my expectations were simply cranked too high, and I set myself up for some disappointment. I got sick during my read of it, as well, so perhaps that plays into things, too.

    I hope you love it all the way to the end. I look forward to your final thoughts!


  2. Oh my… I had this on hold from the library, then canceled the hold, then requested it again, and finally decided against it once more. Imagine if I'd actually been reading the book 😉


  3. Like you, I found the first two-thirds spectacular. So imaginative, so clever. Like you, I can see us now meandering down a very brambly path toward darkness I never intend to go. We'll have to chat when I finish it.


  4. I can see why you vacillate, JoAnn, and I must say that at this pint? Maybe just reading the reviews would suffice for you. Some of us are just too…tender? Looking for righteousness? To enter into this dark realm.


  5. Cripes! Now I definitely don't want to read it. Oh well, I didn't enjoy her first book and it sounds like I won't enjoy this one either. Its a shame it didn't work out in the end, because it seems as if you were enjoying it at first. I hate when that happens with a book.


  6. Funny, I found the beginning a little dull where Scott and his friends keep interviewing people. It seemed a little repetitive. I liked the second half better (I think from the time they interview Cordova's sister-in-law and ex-wife), they actually seemed to be on the road to something.

    I liked the ending too, leaving us to judge what happens in the end.


  7. I enjoyed it a lot at the beginning. And then I became frightened. And then I became confused. Confusion doesn't keep me away, otherwise why would I read Japanese literature which is often open to interpretation? But, evil/dark/cult things are not for me. Not that we stayed there very long, I just didn't like working through it.


  8. Perhaps we should all have a little conversation (with SPOILER ALERT! all over the place) in order to discuss the ending. I'm not quite sure where Cordova really is: the home, the island, or the reporter's mind…


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