This a personal favorite of a good friend of mines. So when he heard I was doing another round of Stephen King adaptations for the Christmas season again, he heavily suggested this film. Though I knew little of this beyond it containing a vampire. So when I realized that Miguel Ferrer was front and center for the whole film. Who I just loved as Lloyd Henreid in The Stand. The Night Flier also has Dan Monahan, who is impossible to remove his roles in the Porky’s films.
The Night Flier opens with a black Sky-master airplane with red piping landing at night in a desolate air strip. The sole attendant goes out to check on the plane and finds it empty. Though he quickly set upon by an unseen attacker and is killed. In New York at The Inside View, a trashy sensationalist tabloid, Richard Dee’s (Miguel Ferrer) the paper’s chief reporter is upset that a picture was cut from his story and storms into his bosses office. Inside Katherine Blair (Julie Entwisle) is being welcomed to the paper by the chief editor Merton Morrison (Dan Monahan). Morrison offers a story to Dee’s, involving a serial killer that flies into airports and kills the attendant. Dee passes on the story and goes out drinking. He’s followed by Blair, who wants to pick his brain over the inside view of Inside View. She’s met with Dee’s short temper and scorn. The following morning when he arrives to work Dee is brought into Morrison’s office, he’s presented with more evidence to support the serial killer’s existence, information dug up by Blair. This new evidence hooks Dee’s interest and agrees to do the story, stealing it from Blair who had already got it. Dee begins tracking the killer flying the same airports and questioning anyone who will talk to him. As he draws closer to the killer, whom he names the Night Flyer, Dee becomes more and more drawn in. Though eventually the trail goes cold, but he gets help from Blair, eventually catching up to the Night Flyer…
Having not read the short story this based on I was able to enjoy this film on its own merits. Night Flyers biggest strength is actually how little the Night Flyer is involved. He’s only alluded to and talked about by those who Dee interviews. The Night Flyer is shown just enough to stay at the forefront of the film, but is always cloaked in shadow until the films final moments.
What really carries this film though is the atmosphere, which remains dark and imposing. The sense of dread cast by the Night Flyer ebbs and flows, but is always there driving the narrative. Though his mental connection to Dee is oddly out-of-place and serves no real purpose.
The acting is mostly really good. Which has a style that I find remarkably similar to Pet Cemetery. Though it does pass the line to cheesy on more than a few occasions. Though it’s really the strength Miguel Ferrer’s performance that carries the film. As his slow decent in obsession and madness here is solid and easily my favorite role of his now.
Final thoughts, like any good adaptation The Night Flyer wants me to read the story on which it was based. I loved the sly references other King stories. Mostly in the scene in Morton’s office as the past headlines. Standing on its own, divorced from King, Night Flyer is still a solid vampire. It has a dark, oppressive mood and ties to the old Dracula films. 8/10