Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Book Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

As a fan of the Horror genre, I tend to get pretty excited when a horror text hits the mainstream, so even though it was billed as a literary thriller, Marisha Pessl’s Night Film caught my attention a few months ago, and when a friend offered to loan me a copy I couldn’t possibly say no.

Having just finished the book, here are my key impressions (also it’s important to keep in mind that I haven’t read the author’s previous book, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and came to this book as a fan of Horror novels, both of which will likely colour my opinion).

In a nutshell, the novel follows a disgraced journalist’s investigation into the death of the daughter of a major horror film director.  In the world of Night Film, this director, Stanislas Cordova has created a body of work that is both so influential that one of his films won an academy award in 1971 (sorry Kramer vs. Kramer), and so terrifying that his films are all now banned and only shown at night by enthusiasts to fans with the knowledge where to find these screenings.  Our narrator, Scott McGrath, follows an immersive journey throughout the book as he tries to find the solution to Ashley Cordova’s apparent suicide, which takes him through the young woman’s life and the films (and making of the films) which were created by her father.

The novel most reminded me of Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg (adapted into the 1987 film Angel Heart), and Rosemary’s Baby by Iran Levin (also adapted into film in 1968), with an awful lot of similarities to Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves (still one of my favourite immersive horror novels, period).

Much of the information given about the Cordova family in the book is done is a format where webpages and articles have been reproduced, which is neat at first, but a little tiring after a while (and sometimes tricky to read due to font size or dark grey on black text) and thankfully doesn’t pop up much in the second half of the book.

As a mystery I found it to be a lot of fun, it definitely kept my interest through the entire 600 pages, and as both a film buff and horror fan, there was enough material to keep me interested – although to be clear, there are not that many horrific moments in the book – a few to be sure, but this book is clearly mystery/thriller with horror elements, rather than a horror novel of its own.

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