Book Review – Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Book Reviews, Books

Cult-horror movie director and recluse Stanislas Cordova is the reason Scott McGrath’s investigative journalism career came to an abrupt stop a few years ago – he’d been trying to uncover secrets about the mysterious creator only to be silenced by not only his very own colleagues and contacts, but Cordova’s estate itself – in the form of a law suit. Since then, he’s had little work, barely sees his daughter and has to watch the woman he still loves move on with a new man. So when Cordova’s daughter Ashley is found dead in a derelict warehouse in Manhattan, Scott instantly comes to the conclusion that there is more at play than a police-ruled suicide. He does after all remember the words a mysterious caller told him in the years he’d been previously investigating Cordova – ‘he does something to the children’. Teaming up with two people who had contact with Ashley in her final days, Scott walks down a dangerous path of curiosity, revenge and obsession – but will what he finds bring him the peace of mind he was looking for or just further entangle him in the sinister web of the enigmatic director?

‘Just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, you realize you’re standing on another trapdoor.’ (Night Film by Marisha Pessl)

Told in a mixed media format, Night Film is one of those rare novels that merges into multiple genres absolutely seamlessly. It’s a thriller at the forefront but it verges on horror and literary family drama more often than not, so if you’re looking for a cheap throwaway beach read á la Girl on the Train or The Woman in the Window then this is not the book for you.

The complexities of each character within Night Film are really what propel this story into a completely new territory. Everyone has a back story and everyone is there for a reason. Our main character here, Scott McGrath is not a likeable protagonist, in fact he occasionally even verges on becoming an antagonist – a bit of an anti-hero I suppose. He’s selfish, puts his work before anything else and occasionally even shows strong signs of racism and sexism. I know a lot of readers struggle when being in the mind of an unlikable main character due to lack of a connection, but I do urge you to attempt this because at no point are you really expected to care all that much for him anyway.

Nora and Hopper, Scott’s oddball assistants, were definitely the two people I did care about though. Marisha Pessl creates a stream of information regarding their pasts that weaves it’s way in and out of the main and subplot so you’re not really sure what is relevant to the mystery and what isn’t. In doing so, she manages to maintain the impression of two broken, realistic and lovable youths who somehow seemed to entangle themselves in one of the world’s biggest mysteries.

Ashley Cordova was well realised despite the fact that she’s found dead at the beginning of the novel. There’s a level of spookiness and unpredictability to her character that throws you off just when you think you’re starting to understand what is going on. As for Stanislas Cordova – I have yet to see such effortless characterisation from any author, ever. He truly is an enigma. When you think of our real life equivalents – perhaps Kubrick or Hitchcock? – he doesn’t even compare. Think of a director whose movies end up becoming so jarring and grotesque that the only way to see them is to pay thousands of dollars for an illegal copy or to find clues to a hidden underground screening in the Paris catacombs. A man whose entire estate rivals Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch and ends up being used as the primary setting for those movies. A man who nobody knows if they’ve ever really truly seen or if all the alleged real photos of him are just decoys. That’s the kind of mystery I genuinely want from a movie director. Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m a true believer that the most artistic among us are also the most susceptible to lock themselves away and get taken over by their incessant need to create something incredible. I’m a dreamer at heart though so this whole plot line was destined to grab my attention.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the quality, excitement and anticipation were consistent throughout and there were a couple of chapters about three quarters of the way through that just let the pace down a little. At just under six hundred pages long with pretty small font – which in contrast to most thrillers is pretty damn excessive – this didn’t exactly feel like it was dragging on, but I do think there are some plot points that could have been removed or had less of an emphasis overall. The ending wasn’t my favourite, but it matched the tone of Night Film very well and left me feeling a bit shaken and lost – in the best of ways? More than anything this is a book about living outside the norm, relishing being different and pushing the boundaries of your existence. It’s all about diving into the depths of the ocean and to swim, and keep swimming…until you find where the mermaids sing.

‘Mortal fear is as crucial a thing to our lives as love. It cuts to the core of our being and shows us what we are. Will you step back and cover your eyes? Or will you have the strength to walk to the precipice and look out?’ (Night Film by Marisha Pessl)

Review written by Tilly.

Buy a copy from your preferred retailer here. Please be aware if ordering from Wordery, I am an affiliate and do receive a small commission when you use my link to purchase the book. WorderyAmazon UKAmazon USBook Depository Blackwell’sBarnes & NobleWaterstones

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Marisha Pessl grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, and now lives in New York City. Special Topics in Calamity Physics, her debut novel, was a bestseller in both hardcover and paperback. It won the 2006 John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize (now the Center for Fiction’s Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize), and was selected as one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review. (Author bio found on Goodreads)


Sounds Like Sunday #1

Music, Sounds Like Sunday

Welcome to not only our first ever post on ReelBazaar but also a new weekly feature where we showcase exactly what songs we’ve been playing and loving during that week! To give you the lowdown on how this feature will work, we will be taking it in turns every Sunday to give you a list of ten songs that we highly recommend you give a chance. From rock, to country to mainstream pop and all the way round to the weirder side of music, we hope that you love uncovering some new favourites tracks to enjoy. First up, it’s John’s turn!

Track One – Doom Days by Bastille

Doom Days is just one of those songs. The first single taken from the new album of the same name, it is one of those rarest of songs that makes you feel euphoric, nostalgic and emotional all at the same time. There are plenty of pop culture references too, and quite a few lyrics that deal with important problems in the world today. The first time Tilly played it to me (she insists that I credit her with finding it first), I wasn’t a huge fan, in fact I found it a little boring, so it may take a few listens to ‘get it’. Try blasting it out on an evening drive through the countryside as the sun goes down, and it’ll hit you just how good this track is. My song of the year so far.

Favourite lyric:

‘When I watch the world burn
All I think about is you’

For fans of: OneRepublic, Imagine Dragons, Kodaline.

Track Two – Turbulent by Waterparks

Another of Tilly’s fantastic finds, Turbulent is an interesting one. It’s packed with raw anger and resentment, and it is certainly not what you’d have expected from the Texas rockers, combining Awsten Knight’s trademark punky vocals with a drum & bass instrumental. My god is it catchy though, and I can’t wait to see what else they come out with. Will they stick to this new sound? I would like to hear more of it, that’s for sure, because it works.

Favourite lyric:

‘You had a taste of the life
But you grew complacent and my sanity laced itself
Up in the back of your mind
And that’s where you left me to die’

For fans of: grandson, Twenty One Pilots, AJR.

Track Three – Dirty Air by Two Door Cinema Club

Given that the last time I properly listened to Two Door Cinema Club was when 2012’s Beacon was released, I guess it probably isn’t surprising that their sound has changed somewhat, but this was still intriguing to find! Dirty Air has an overwhelming 80’s feel to it, that’s for sure, and it’s made me want to go and listen to the other two singles released from their upcoming third album, False Alarm.

Favourite lyric:

‘The sky is falling, so pull up a chair
Everyone’s watching like nobody cares
The queen of fashion, ahead of her time
Whatever happens, the pleasure is mine’

For fans of: The Wombats, The Vaccines, Foster The People.

Track Four – Record Collection by Kaiser Chiefs

Considering it has been a while since Kaiser Chiefs achieved mainstream success, this could be their shot at a being back up there. The track gives off a Killers-esque vibe, is very catchy, and the chorus has a sweeping, flowing melody to it that is just.. right. The Art Attack inspired video accompanies it well too! Give this a listen and you’ll see why their upcoming album, Duck, is definitely one to watch this year. Also – anyone else get Black Mirror vibes from this? No?

Favourite lyric:

Sit back and relapse into the world we built for you
Where everything you need is on its way now
Make yourself at home, my extraordinary friend
Where everything is okay in the end

For fans of: The Killers, Robbie Williams, Kasabian.

Track Five – Nunchuck by Saint PHNX

Saint PHNX were another new discovery for both of us this past week or so. The best way I could probably describe them is a cross between Twenty One Pilots and Imagine Dragons I think. The instrumental in this track is probably my favourite thing about it – it’s powerful, and, especially in the chorus, really helps hammer home the vocals. Definitely one for the headphones, this. If you like it, check out King by them too!

Favourite lyric:

I’ve got violence in my head
And all my friends are dead
I’ve got white noise in my brain
And it’s always been the same

For fans of: grandson, Imagine Dragons, Twenty One Pilots.

Track Six – Strange Love by Simple Creatures

Simple Creatures are a new duo on the alternative scene, and will be veeery recognisable to a lot of people. Pretty sure most of you have at least heard of Blink-182 right?? And All Time Low aren’t exactly a small band. Well basically, Simple Creatures are Mark Hoppus from the former, and Alex Gaskarth from the latter, and this is their debut single. Upon first listen I liked it, but this is a definite grower too. Alex and Mark’s creative juices have definitely flowed all over this project and it shows. Strange Love mixes synths, guitar, and a hell of a catchy chorus to make an excellent first track! Keep an eye on these guys.

Favourite lyric:

She straightens out her dress
And wipes the lipstick off her teeth
You’re just a crater of yourself
And she’s the fallen angel underneath

For fans of: All Time Low, You Me At Six, The Maine.

Track Seven – Trampoline by Airways

Despite the… interesting video, this is a fun, energetic song that brings to mind (yes, once again!) Twenty One Pilots! This is also another instance where the instrumental, particularly in the chorus, goes so well with the vocals in that both are incredibly powerful and catchy. I think it would be a good idea to keep an eye on Airways, as they could be an up and coming band to watch based on this showing.

Favourite lyric:

So that’s that gotta run like a rat
I don’t fit, I won’t come back
Got no time for this, yeah I really need to quit
Find another trampoline cause I’m losing it

For fans of: Nothing But Thieves, Twenty One Pilots, YUNGBLUD.

Track Eight – Wish You Well by Sigala & Becky Hill

FINALLY. The first properly summery sounding track of the year for me. I find this to actually be a bit of a throwback to the dance music of the late noughties/early 2010’s – the best way to describe it would be euphoric I think? This isn’t really like Sigala’s usual music either I don’t think. It relies less on the instrumental, which is a good thing considering Becky Hill has the vocals down. I think the combination of both the throwback sound and Hill’s powerful voice give this the potential to be one of the summer hits of the year.

Favourite lyric:

Sometimes even the good things get lost along the way
We opened up the same book, we found a different page

For fans of: Galantis, Martin Garrix, Jonas Blue.

Track Nine – Blossoms by Of Allies

This is the closest sound I have found so far to Lonely The Brave’s first album, and that is high praise indeed. It’s all in the vocals and what they evoke for me. Seriously, there are some anthemic voices on offer here! Don’t get me wrong, the track is good anyway, but it’s the feeling it gives me that makes me keep coming back to listen to it. I’m going to have a listen to more of Of Allies’ stuff as well though because they hold a lot of promise. A lot of promise indeed. These guys could be what the rock world needs.

Favourite lyric:

I’m awake in you and the blossoms are our mattress
In the dark we move

For fans of: Lonely The Brave, Mallory Knox, Lower Than Atlantis.

Track Ten – Sometimes I Don’t Mind by Bowling For Soup

This is a love song to dogs, need I say more?? This is what dogs deserve. I know this is a cover but, having listened to the original, we both preferred this. Bowling For Soup have done an excellent job with this, and that, along with an absolutely adorable video, and the fact that this is an incredibly catchy number, make this one of my favourites of the year. Plus it’s Bowling For Soup, how can you not like them?!

Favourite lyric:

Well I watch you sleep sometimes and it feels like the first time
And you’re always on my mind, everyday is like the first day
And I talk to you sometimes, even though you never talk back
And I buy you things sometimes ’cause I don’t mind

For fans of: Good Charlotte, Simple Plan, Blink-182.

So there you have it. Our first ever post, and our first Sounds Like Sunday instalment! Below you’ll find my Spotify playlist for this week so go and have a listen, and let me know if you like any of them! See you in a week’s time for the next Sounds Like Sunday!