Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 36 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Horror Violence, Gore and Strong Language
Directed by: Mark Pavia
Written by: Mark Pavia, Jack O’Donnell
(based on the short story THE NIGHT FLIER by Stephen King)
Starring: Miguel Ferrer, Julie Entwisle, Dan Monahan, Michael H. Moss
Stephen King has famously tackled vampires in his critically acclaimed SALEM’S LOT, that was later turned into a great miniseries and a so-so remake of said miniseries. King actually did return to write about bloodsuckers one more time in NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES. Contained in that massive anthology was a little story titled THE NIGHT FLIER. This tale was unnerving and absolutely terrifying. Eventually (as all Stephen King stories usually wind up) it was adapted into a feature-length film. While some movies based on his short stories have been terrible (THE MANGLER, CHILDREN OF THE CORN, GRAVEYARD SHIFT), THE NIGHT FLIER stays remarkably true to the source material and does the impossible, it captures the sheer frightening nature of the words on paper that it’s based on.
Richard Dees is a tabloid reporter and an all-around asshole. He’s arrogant, self-important, and whiny, and those are some of his better qualities. There isn’t a low to which he won’t stoop to make his article in the Inside View (think National Enquirer before it focused on celebrity gossip) more shocking. After a couple of countryside airports turn up with a bloody massacres and no survivors, it appears that a serial killer is on the loose, using his plane as transportation. To make matters even more strange, the victims have been drained of blood and the brutality on display seems too much for one mere man to commit. Dees takes the case from a new reporter and begins his investigation into “The Night Flier.” Meanwhile, the wronged reporter does everything in her power to get her story back.
The short story was a slow deliberate scarefest that ended in a climax that kept me from sleeping for a few hours. It’s easily one of the best pieces of vampire fiction I’ve read. Keeping in tone with the story, THE NIGHT FLIER is an adaptation that relishes in everything that was frightening about the short story and cranks it up a notch by the conclusion. The story ended in a quietly freaky way that was good for a written work, but wouldn’t have really worked in film format. Wisely, director/co-writer Mark Pavia keeps the movie going a little further past where the story originally ended and finishes on a solid 15 minute long purely nightmarish conclusion.
As far as Stephen King adaptations go, THE NIGHT FLIER is criminally underrated and stands tall when placed against the actual story. Miguel Ferrer inhabits his role with such ferocity that it’s impossible to separate the actor from the character. I’m sure he’s a really nice guy, but Ferrer has a knack for playing scumbags. The addition of Dee’s rival (a character who wasn’t in the story at all) adds another layer to the film and plays into just how bleak the final third becomes. The effects themselves range from cool to somewhat cheesy. One moment near the end of the film involving the reveal of The Night Flier made me roll my eyes, because it was unneeded and corny. This being said, despite the occasionally hokey effects, this is a solid piece of horror cinema.
THE NIGHT FLIER stays true to the source material, while changing a few things up that actually work better in this visual medium. Even though Dees is a complete and utter tool, we can’t help ourselves enjoy watching this despicable man go through a creepy investigation that ultimately leads to a confrontation that will decide his fate. In the realm of Stephen King adaptations, THE NIGHT FLIER is great. In the world of vampire films, it’s also great. This is an underrated gem of a movie that deserves more acclaim than it gets.