The Night Flier
Miguel Ferrer, Julie Entwisle, Dan Monahan
The Night Flier flew into less than a
in North America early 1998, and didn't last long, retreating to it's
destination of home video just now. Because of this brief theatrical
and the fact that most King adaptations haven't been very good, one
probably assume that this is another failure. Actually, despite some
- some very serious - it is nowhere as bad as you may think.
Miguel Ferrer plays Richard, a burned-out reporter
working at Inside
View, which seems to be what the Enquirer was a few
ago (pictures of corpses, freaks, the like). Like other movies dealing
with tabloids, it shows the production of these stories in the same
way ("I haven't finished the story about [insert]"). Dan Monahan ("Pee
Wee" of the Porky's movies, returning to the screen
after a long
absence) plays the editor Martin, who gives Richard a new assignment.
a psycho names "Dwight Renfield" has been flying a black Cessna
at night, and landing at isolated airports and killing the people
Initially reluctant, Richard later takes on the
assignment, taking away
the already gathered information from the newbie reporter Katherine
Entwisle), and starts to trace the progress of the killer from airport
to airport. Along the way, with some in-jokes that King fans will get a
chuckle out of, the reporter gets several mysterious threats from an
source, and clues appear that the killer and Richard have some sort of
mental link. Finally, he catches up to the killer at a new airport, and
in a memorable scene (involving a mirror and a urinal), he discovers
killer.....and then a surprise twist is sprung on the audience. It
come as a total surprise (there are hints along the way), but it still
lead to a somewhat unexpected ending.
Debut director Pavia shows that he's not without talent,
despite a low
budget. He manages to generate some interest and mystery, especially
the killer, who we slowly learn has some kind of supernatural power.
Pavia stubbornly refuses to answer a lot of the mystery. Where did the
killer come from? Why did he suddenly start killing? Why does the
plane always have a pile of maggot-infested dirt under it when parked
the ground? Why does he even fly a plane? What does the photograph
in his plane mean? When his hypnotized victims say that they are going
"to a better place", what do they (or the killer) mean?
Despite all these questions, I still might have given
the movie a definite
recommendation had it not been for the treatment of Ferrer's character.
His character is one of the most dislikeable "heroes" I've ever seen in
a movie. True, his character is supposed to be dislikeable,
a bar near the beginning of the movie, he has a somewhat convincing
as to how the job has made him bitter and burned out. But he's in
every scene of the movie, and has the majority of the dialogue. One
scene has the story coming to a dead halt, so he can stop along his
to take pictures of car accident victims splattered all over the road.
This scene comes off as completely gratuitous, even to splatter fans,
adds nothing to the character we already know.
I believe this King story was originally one of his
short stories. It
would certainly explain why the movie feels so slow and padded. Flaws
all, there's enough good stuff here to make a nifty 1/2 or one hour
Zone" episode. But since I'm reviewing what it is now, and not what it
could have been, I can't recommend the movie. However, I am interested
in Pavia's next movie.
UPDATE: Scott Roberts sent me this information:
"Just wanted to drop you a line and pass on some info
in case you didn't know. The reason Night Flier only opened in
a few theaters is because it was actually a made for TV movie. If I
remember correctly, it premiered on the USA Network first, then had a
limited release in theaters (with a couple of brief shots restored that
had been cut from the TV premier). I'm not sure why they decided to
release a made for TV movie theatrically after it had already played on
television, but that's what happened. I had read this information in an
issue of Fangoria Magazine back when the movie was first about to play
UPDATE 2: "Alex" sent this in:
"Scott Robert's information is inaccurate. The
Night Flier, based indeed upon a short story by Stephen King was
intended for theatrical release. I know this because I spoke to the
director, who was a guest speaker at a filmmaking seminar I attended in
Tennessee in 1998. But one look at the film, not to mention the type
and frequency of the profanity, makes it clear in any case that this
film was never intended for television.
Roberts is correct, however, in his assertion that the film, initially
held back from distribution for reasons not entirely clear, did have
it's premiere on television. The venue, however, was not the USA
Network but rather HBO. Thereafter, there was indeed a very limited
UPDATE 3: "Bosch" sent in this explanation:
"Regarding the write up for The Night Flier
(which I too thought was a lot better then many may imagine); I may be
stating the obvious here, and the questions you listed as unanswered by
the director are probably purely hypothetical, but just in case not;
The ubiquitous pile of dirt under the plane is a steal from classic
vampire folklore. The traveling vampire is said to require not only a
place out of the sun to sleep (hence the blackened plane windows) but
also that in his place of interment is laid upon soil from his
homeland. (See Barlow in Salem's Lot for a direct King
reference). So his plane (instead of his coffin, a la Stokers
protagonists arrival at Whitby) is presumably decked out with a nice
layer of soil from some far flung country, a nice little hint to Kings
oft referred to Constant Readers and vampire lovers alike."
for availability on Amazon (VHS)
Amazon for source novel "Nightmares & Dreamscapes"
See also: Lake Of Dracula, Evil Of Dracula, The