Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Night Flier (1997)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

Fed up with censorship and having to report on dead end garbage, Richard Dees (Miguel Ferrer) is looking for his next big story. As a veteran employee, Richard works for Inside View, a paranormal and exploitative tabloid, and Richard is tired of picking up the scraps to make a living, but a new story could change Richard’s fortunes.

Merton Morrison (Dan Monahan), Richard’s editor-in-chief, urges Richard to report on a new story about a murderer, who uses a private plane to kill helpless victims in small towns. Using a black Skymaster draped in thick curtains, Dwight Renfield (Michael H. Moss) quietly swoops into select communities at night to massacre everything in his path. The body count rises with each passing night, and gruesome evidence suggests Dwight could be a vampire.

Richard refuses to accept the story, until Katherine Blair (Julie Entwisle) comes into the picture. Katherine is the newest employee for Inside View, and Morrison is impressed by Katherine’s ambitious and energetic persona, so Morrison gives the story to Katherine. But Richard has a change of heart after he considers the potential for a headline, and  Katherine can’t compete with Richard’s personal airplane and pilot’s license. Using the urge for a long-awaited return to the front page, Richard goads Morrison into changing his mind. Richard is assigned to report on the story, and against her will, Katherine is forced to relinquish her research to Richard.

Richard uses “The Night Flier” as a nickname for Dwight, and Richard’s sleuthing into the mystery behind the vampiric murderer reveals a dark past. As Richard inches closer to exposing the secrets behind the brutal murders, The Night Flier forces Richard to reconsider his investigation with a series of foreboding warnings written in fresh blood………

Miguel Ferrer delivers the best performance here. His portrayal of this scummy and miserable creep is spot on, and Ferrer brings the essential shameless presence to the Dees character. Dees will stop at nothing to be the top man at Insider View, and his despicable actions include photographing fresh dead bodies (i.e. Dees snapping pictures of deceased victims after a tragic car wreck). Dan Monahan is good for a few laughs as the slimy and perverted boss, and kudos to Julie Entwisle for a noteworthy performance. Katherine is the only ray of sunshine in a backstabbing and merciless snake pit. It’s easy to feel sympathy for Katherine, because Entwisle’s vibrant and perky performance as this harmless newcomer is very convincing.

During his scandalous search for the truth, Dees is stuck in an unbearable frustration point every now and then, because he’s always one step behind The Night Flier. Towards the end of the film, Dees finally catches the big break he’s looking for with some help from Katherine (long story short, Katherine agrees to form a team with Dees to work on the story together). Of course, Dees wants all the glory to himself, so he double-crosses Katherine by locking her in the closet of a motel room.

Dees takes his personal plane on one last trip to confront The Night Flier at a rural airport in the middle of nowhere. Dees arrives at the airport, but instead of running into The Night Flier first, Dees is horrified at the sight of scattered and mutilated dead bodies in the lobby. Eventually, Dees meets The Night Flier in the bathroom. Here, The Night Flier forces Dees to handover his only form of proof (a roll of film in the camera).

The Night Flier destroys the roll of film, but it’s not over yet. Dees begs for one last chance to see The Night Flier’s face (throughout the movie, we never see a full or clear shot of The Night Flier’s face, and if you need a visual, just look at the movie poster). The Night Flier reveals himself to Dees, and The Night Flier forces Dees to drink blood from his wrist. After tasting The Night Flier’s blood, Dees is thrust into a nightmarish vision of the murdered victims in the airport coming to life as vampires. Out of fear, Dees grabs an axe to hack and slice anyone in front of him.

In reality, Dees is just cutting into a bunch of lifeless corpses, and Dees becomes a victim of bad timing, because during his crazed frenzy, two police officers and Katherine burst through the doors of the airport. Two policeman walk in, they see a pile of decapitated dead bodies, and this deranged man covered in blood is wielding an axe, so guess what happens? They shoot and kill a disorientated and dangerous (yeah, Dees had the worst intentions with that axe) Dees. Unbeknownst to the policeman, Katherine spots The Night Flier quietly walking away from the scene of the crime in the storm outside, and a speechless Katherine watches The Night Flier escape in his plane.

Instead of telling the police the truth, Katherine taking Dees advice from a rude pep talk during the early stages of the movie, submits a story to Morrison about Dees being The Night Flier. On the front page for the latest edition of Inside View, Katherine’s picture is next to the story, with “Jimmy” (Dees constantly referred to Katherine as a Jimmy throughout the movie as an insult for Katherine being a clueless and na├»ve newbie) as her middle name.

A nail-biting series of events for this finale. Dees was so close to walking away with his life and health intact, but in the end, his obsession with The Night Flier got the best of him. Earlier, Dees gave Katherine a warning about the dangers of Insider View consuming a stressed and tortured soul. Dees told the story of Dotty Walsh, a former employee. Dotty’s work at the Insider View drove her to insanity, and Dotty eventually committed suicide by wrapping a plastic bag around her head in a bathtub full of water. The same thing happened to Dees. His unnatural obsession with The Night Flier drove him to madness, and you can sense some pitiful sympathy from Katherine, as she takes one last disappointed look at Dees’ corpse.

The Night Flier could’ve been a lot better. Unfortunately, some noticeably poor production values really hurt this one, because you get the feeling you’re watching a bargain basement made for TV movie. Still, The Night Flier is one of the more respectable Stephen King adaptations. It’s a creepy and ghoulish vampire flick, featuring a handful of eerie and unsettling nighttime scenes. Plus, there’s more than enough nasty gruesomeness and blood to satisfy the gore fiends, and The Night Flier delivers some genuine gross-out (i.e. a reflectionless Night Flier peeing blood into a urinal, and Dotty Walsh’s head exploding) moments.

Rating: 6/10

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