Miscalibrated Internet Receptor Stalks

Or: Creating Fictional Culture Correctly [SPOILER FREE]

I finished reading Marisha Pessl's Night Film after a manic 5 day on-more-chapter-and-then-bed binge. It's a horror film mystery turned up to 12. While I'm still unpacking everything about this book and whether I was glamoured by the narrative into thinking the writing itself was exceptional as opposed to pretty damn good, I can comment on one thing that Pessl got perfect: the creation of realistic fictional culture.


When writers try to talk about movies or books or music or art that only exists in that writer's universe, they often fail at making that band/book/movie significantly compelling. The culture ends up being a muddled version of a lot of different references (ex. the Dylan-esque singer songwriter with a Leonard Cohen flair and Tom Waits storybook of lyrics) with no real punch inside that universe.

It's easy to see that Stanislas Cordova is an amalgamation of many parts: Hitchcock, Argento, King, Kubrick, anyone who ever picked up a bottle of Hershey's syrup and said "This will totally look like blood on the black and white film stock!" It's even lampshaded in the book when one character corrects another with: "That was Kubrick. Get your fucking geniuses straight." Peesl has taken aspects of each director and mined them to create a more compelling whole. As the story unspools itself into so many genres of horror that slowly converge, it sells Cordova as a real man, a genius and a monster. As a result, his film ouevre seems tangible and real and I am more than a little sad that I'll never actually get to watch any of his films.

p.s. I'm leaving out my opinions on the app component of the book. It was interesting but it didn't add enough to the experience for me to warrant pulling out my phone..

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