Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Mark Pavia
Cast: Miguel Ferrer, Julie Entwisle, Dan Monahan
First thing is first, a lot of people know about and appreciate this movie. But there are hordes of film freaks who don’t have a clue just how entertaining this Stephen King Adaptation actually is. It’s been passed over by many who assumed the pic was just another crappy made-for-tv flick with no promise. That’s not an accurate assessment of the film, and it’s a foolish assumption. The Night Flier is one of those really rare King transfers that works exceptionally well, and gets the cast completely right, even if there’s an obvious lack of a marquee name attached.
Miguel Ferrer has a great body of work built up at this point. In 1997, he wasn’t quite as well known, certainly far from an A-lister, but he was no doubt a respectable talent (whose work in Robocop remains a personal favorite). And he turns in a performance here that certainly helped secure future gigs. The man was born to play the role of the jaded and constantly grumpy Richard Dees.
Speaking of Dees, he’s a reporter with a penchant for the extreme. He’s constantly snagging brutal and controversial pictures that accompany his borderline perverse and obviously exploitative stories. And when the tale of a psychopath who flies through the night, parks his Cessna at various airports across the US and drains random strangers of their blood lands in his lap, he reluctantly signs up. But what he doesn’t necessarily see coming is the allure and obsession that waits. And given Dees’ own fascination with savage crimes, and the supernatural powers possessed by Dwight “The Night Flier” Renfield (the name Dwight Renfield should elicit a chuckle from Dracula fans), obsession is a near-guarantee and a very grim fate is all but inevitable.
Julie Entwisle does a pretty decent job as hungry new reporter Katherine Blair, who finds herself tangled up in an almost-rivalry with Dees, chasing the same story. The role could have definitely been better cast, but hey, she’s married to Mark Pavia, who directed and helped transfer the story to screenplay, so it’s no shock to see her cast in a lead slot. At least she doesn’t blatantly fumble the ball. In fact, no one really botches this gig. There are some semi-flat characters, but they only work to empower Ferrer. And, again, he really is excellent.
The film functions at a fine pace, and the gore is not-so-surprisingly awesome. KNB is behind the nastiness, so pleasing grotesqueries comes expected. The cinematography is clean, and the script is strong. It’s just a really, really well-assembled piece that boasts a staggering and completely satisfying finale. It’s bloody, revelatory and rewarding.
Most would never guess, but The Night Flier is arguably one of the 15-20 best vampire films out there. When it comes to the 1990s, very few films trump it (From Dusk Till Dawn, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Blade, Dracula and Cronos are the only efforts from the decade that I’d personally consider superior), and subsequent decades haven’t produced too many stronger subgenre works, either. It’s an awesome and underrated movie that all should see at least once.