Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Night Flyer Review

Don’t believe what they say in the tabloids.  Unless everything they say is absolutely true. 

A few things stuck out at me while watching this movie.  One, it’s pretty funny.  Two, it has a pretty groovy monster.  And three, nobody seems to remember this movie exists.    Funny, because I actually legitimately remember a time (less than ten years ago actually) when this movie lined the DVD shelves of Saturday Matinees and FYEs at your local Mall.

I know because I watch you when you go out shopping…don’t ask why, it’s a monster thing.   

The Night Flyer is a 1997 HBO film adaptation of a Stephen King short story, written for the anthology book “Prime Evil”.  The movie stars human actor Miguel Ferrer as Richard Dees, a jaded tabloid reporter who works for the “Inside View” (you King fans should get the reference).  Dees travels across New England reporting on the murders of a serial killer called “the Night Flyer” in his articles.  Dees calls him The Night Flyer because he travels by night in a private plain, draining the blood of those unlucky enough to cross his path.  But just like a good King story should, it delves deep into the supernatural, as we learn that the Night Flyer is in fact a horrible vampire, and an ugly one at that. 

But before I get ahead of myself, let me discuss the many aspects of this movie that falls flat.

This film leaves much to be desired.  First off, the vampire is named Dwight Renfield.  Really?  Dwight Renfield?  Even people who haven’t read Bram Stoker’s Dracula and don’t know who Dwight Frye was still find this name to be really fishy.  It doesn’t help that Dees explains why the name is stupid within the first twenty minutes of the movie.  For the three of you out there who don’t know, Dwight Renfield is a fakey combination name of Dwight Frye, who played the character of Renfield, Dracula’s servant in the 1929 Universal film Dracula starring Bela Lugosi.  Some of you may say that the ambiguous name was meant to show the vampire has such great psychic power that he doesn’t have to try to hide his identity from the police.  But then how come the good people at the Inside View recognize the coinciding murders that happen around the man’s appearances along the east coast? 

Another thing that bothered me about this movie is ironically one of my favorite parts; the makeup.  While at full strength, Dwight Renfield takes the form of a long black haired man.  But he is really an ugly, bat like vampire with a wide gaping mouth and sharp “rail road spike” teeth (but to tell you the truth, he always looked a bit like a cheetah to me).  I was very happy with this interpretation.  I am of the school of thought that vampires are strongest when portrayed as monsters, not super powered romantics.  True, there are more than enough examples of well-written vampires taking on romantic roles.  But this interpretation has become so over used in film, television and literature that seeing anything break that over done mold, even slightly, is a refreshing enough change.  However, there are definitely shots where the makeup looked way too much like a latex mask and pair of gloves purchased at a Halloween store.  If they only lit those hands darker, it would have covered this up better.  On the other hand, at least the monster wasn’t a CGI vampire. 

Trusty Snuff box...Make my life tolerable. 

It may also be a little lame that you don’t actually see the monster until the end.  I would say this is a good thing, because it adds suspense and makes the vampire more mysterious.  But he barely shows up at all, except for flashbacks.  I know the focus is really on the struggle between the Inside View reporters and the satirical drama built around the character’s competitive nature.  However, I don’t find it uncalled for to expect a few more scenes directly involving the monster and the protagonist/s.  It would have raised the stakes a whole lot more.

The ending also leaves you asking a lot of questions.  It comes dangerously close to an intelligent metaphorical climax, but just barely falls flat in the logic department.  It’s not the worst ending I have ever seen, but it’s not an incredibly satisfying one either. 

You will also find that some of the dialogue is pretty stupid.

“He was wearing a big cloak red as a fire engine inside black as a woodchuck’s asshole outside and when it spread out behind him it looked like a god damn bat’s wing it did.” 
Looks like a fucking cloak to me...asshole.
You know from the bottom of your bleeding heart this movie was circa 1999 when you hear THIS come out of somebodies' lips.  “Somehow she tapped into a network of local law enforcement agencies with that computer of hers.”  She couldn't have just typed it into google.  No, it's a magic fucking box!  

That’s enough shooting the shit, now let’s suck this movie off.  I love it’s use of dark comedy to satirize the news and tabloid industry, painting everyone involved as a social bloodsucking parasite constantly looking for the new hot story to make more money with, screw the victims.  Merton Morrison, played by Dan Monahan from Porky’s fame, is the head of the Inside View and every time he enters a scene you are guaranteed some good old screwed up shenanigans.  My favorite scene with him is when he is talking to Dees over the phone, and blabs about how he hopes the Night Flyer kills more people, since it would aid in selling more papers.  And when Dees reports back that he will not have the story done as soon as Morrison would like, Morrison instigates his newest rookie reporter Katherine Blair, played by Julie Entwisle to compete with Dees by finishing the article before him.   What a schmuck.  But Morrison isn’t the only bad guy; all these characters are a bunch of assholes.  Which is interesting, since their actions still come off as fairly believable.  Within the first five minutes, Dees runs through the office of the Inside View, screaming in frustration that Morrison cut a photograph from the front page that he took of a dead infant.  This really shows you the kind of protagonist we are in for to ride this movie with.  He’s an insufferable prick who uses people to climb to the top.  But his motives are logical and self preserving.  He’s had a long career of tabloid writing to become this desensitized after all.  It doesn’t help that he’s even seen fellow reporters kill themselves, unable to cope with the harsh realities of the stories they report.  Without this great distance Dees puts between himself and his job, he probably wouldn’t have been in the game so long.  But on the other hand, if he only quit the reporting business long ago, he would not have met his horrifying and tragic end.

You wormy mother fucker.
All in all, I like this movie.  Though it has its share of bugs you'll have to look past, it still manages to entertain.  If you give it a look, you may be surprised at what you find.  It sure as hell isn’t the worst Stephen King adaption I’ve ever seen.

FYI, keep your eyes open for a million references to other Stephen King stories.  You know how much he loves to create a single world for all his horrors to occupy.


  1. I liked this movie and have a copy on VHS...

  2. Just watched this movie again (this time with my grandson who weren't even a glimmer in his daddy's eye when i first watched it)after looking for it for a long time. Like Dr. There I used to have it on VHS. Still kinda funny 😂as Renfeld beats the heck outta Claire, scary 😲when Renfeld reveals his monster face. But then you see the sexy 😍as hell real face.