Welcome back to another edition of Give It a Shot, where we writers get to wax poetic about weird little things we love. As an avid reader, I am always on the lookout for the next big hit in terms of book. I love horror films, ergo I must love horror literature. And boy, do I ever. I think making a scary novel is a more difficult task, since all you have is the imagination of the reader, which can be less than reliable, especially in the TV era. Still, some books manage to creep us out with just a few specially chosen words. Stephen King is notoriously good at it, but he should watch his back. Marisha Pessl isn’t far behind in the shadows.
Night Film is about Scott McGrath, a disgraced investigative journalist who tried and failed to take down the infamous underground director Stanislas Cordova, who makes the scariest films known to man. However, after the suicide of Cordova’s piano-genuis daughter Ashley, McGrath finds himself back on the filmmaker’s tail with an unlikely entourage.
Where Night Film really shines in its mysteries — you never know more than you need to and yet, the book supplies an ample sense of understanding but caution. We fear for McGrath, we wait with him in the backs of witchcraft stores, blacked antique shops, even high-priced Manhattan apartments as he unravels clue and nearly gets himself killed…twice. He is immediately relatable and detestable, a true sign of a thought out, flawed protagonist, far from the crippling perfect characteristics of other detective heroes.
This book will especially delight cinephiles, since the made-up plots of Cordova’s films, his techniques, his signature pitfalls are unique and fascinating, making you wish Pessl could actually bring these films to the silver screen. It’s spooky without being over the top, it’s well-crafted, and, even though it uses the same trope of a double-ending, completely satisfying. If you’re looking for a book to run chills down your spine and cut through the rosy-cheeked cheer of the holiday season, you should give it a shot.