Format: Internet video on laptop.
Normally, when a horror movie doesn’t show the monster until the very end of the film, I wouldn’t spoil that by showing that monster in the picture, but the creature in The Night Flier appears on the cover of the DVD case. It seems like a really bad choice, honestly, and it was almost certainly out of the control of the director of the film. I guess in that respect I’m piling on to Mark Pavia’s problems with The Night Flier. It’s a bit of a shame. The Night Flier does some things really well and other things demonstrate just how much of a beginner effort it is. Pavia hasn’t had much of a career, and that’s a shame. Sure, this is an unpolished movie in a lot of respects, but it shows some real promise.
The Night Flier is based on the Stephen King short story of the same name, and while it’s been some time since I’ve read the story on which this is based, it would seem that the entire story is pretty much included here. In fact, the script takes a good deal of license with the story, adding quite a bit. Some of those additions are good and some come across as really unnecessary. Still, the premise is a good one for a 90-minute horror movie, and sometimes a good premise is really all you need.
Richard Dees (Miguel Ferrer) is the lead reporter for a sleazy supermarket tabloid called “Inside View.” Dees is the reporter equivalent of an ambulance chaser, tracking down gory and weird stories for the paper, which seems to be somewhere between the National Enquirer and the Weekly World News. When the film begins, Dees discovers that the picture he took of a dead infant has been pulled from the last edition and he goes to complain to his boss, Merton Morrison (Dan Monahan).
As it happens, Morrison is interviewing the new reporter, Katherine Blair (Julie Entwistle), who Dees immediately writes off as a “Jimmy,” which is short for Superman’s pal Jimmy Olson. Morrison offers his star reporter a juicy story on a guy who flies a small plane into private airports and kills anyone he finds there, draining the bodies of blood before he moves on. He’s hit two such airports when the film starts, but Richard isn’t interested in the story. Morrison gives it to Katherine, who gets a good deal of information about the third set of murders. Now intrigued and determined to keep his top position, Richard takes the story over and heads out to track down clues.
And it’s here that The Night Flier loses me a little. While the interviews we get are good and help set up the character that will eventually be called by the movie’s title, we also seem to get some indication that Richard is developing something like a psychic connection with the monster in question. There’s no question here that the monster is definitely a vampire or someone pretending to be a vampire. Richard visits all of the small plane’s previous stops, but is also haunted by bad dreams and even a waking nightmare or two. This could be interesting, but it doesn’t make a great deal of sense in the context of the film.
Of course Katherine is still working the story as well, and the two reporters come into conflict. Eventually, Richard does catch up with the Night Flier and, well, he gets the creature pictured at the top of this page. This is another place where the film falls down a bit for me. At first blush, the creature looks pretty good, but for whatever reason, rather than just giving us a quick flash of the bat-faced monster, we get a really extended shot of it, and it ends up really looking like a dude in a latex mask, which is exactly what it is.
There’s a lot here that works, including some genuinely creepy scenes that work almost in spite of themselves. Richard Dees appears to be hallucinating at times, and that’s something that could be worked well into the context of the story, but it doesn’t really seem to fit with the rest of the take. So, while the scenes themselves are interesting individually, they don’t really work in the narrative.
Still, there’s a lot that goes right. Part of that is Miguel Ferrer, who I tend to like in most things, even if the film itself isn’t that good. Ferrer plays a good scumbag, and Richard Dees is particularly loathsome. One of Ferrer’s talents is that while he does play a good scumbag, he’s also capable of infusing that scumbag with…well, not humanity, exactly, but verisimilitude. It’s easy to buy into Richard Dees here and find him compelling even as we find him a terrible person and not someone we’d reallsy like to spend time around.
The movie also recreates the most memorable scene from the story itself—Richard Dees in a bathroom after seeing the results of a massive slaughter by the vampire only to discover that the creature is using the bathroom. Watching blood-soaked urine hit the back of a urinal is nasty but kind of interesting. Seeing that in a mirror—something that doesn’t pick up the reflection of a vampire—means that we just see the bloody pee appear out of thin air. It’s a great moment because it’s both funny and horrific.
The Night Flier is not a great movie. The ending is pretty good, and there’s a lot of solid carnage at the end. Oh, it doesn’t rewrite the horror genre in any respect, but it’s a hard film to dislike too much, and it really does show that director Mark Pavia has some basic skills, even if some of what he does here ends up feeling clichéd (the vampire wears a giant opera cape, for instance) and amateurish.
Why to watch The Night Flier: It’s a pretty good vampire story with a great premise.
Why not to watch: It has to add a lot that it doesn’t need to pad the story.