The Night Flier (Mark Pavia, 1997)
[originally posted 16May2000]
Tip for the video distributor (don’t remember if it was on the movie poster; did this ever make the theaters?): if part of the suspense you’re building in the film has to do with the face of your villain, putting said face on the video box is rather like writing “ROMEO AND JULIET DIE” on the cover of every copy of the script of the Shakespeare play in question. Duh. Better yet, have the cover be a pair of labelled coffins.
Pavia’s debut film casts the always-quirky Miguel Ferrer as a burnt-out tabloid reporter on the trail of a vampire who flies around in a plane. Yes, he knows it’s a vampire; since the glory days of Kolchak, you can’t get away with tabloid reporters who don’t believe in the supernatural any more. Again, this is a story of King’s I’m not remembering too well, but I think the whole subplot of Ferrer’s character competing with a cub reporter (Julie Entwistle, in her first major role) was the invention of the scriptwriter here. And this story is a short one; it probably needed the beefing up. Sometimes it works (most notably in the brilliant and underrated Lord of Illusions); most of the time it doesn’t. Pavia treads the line. There’s an undeniable chemistry between Ferrer and Entwistle, and the latter is as compulsively likable as the former is not; and by now everyone knows how hard it is to film King adaptations, since so much of what goes on in King’s writing happens in people’s heads. That doesn’t stop writers and directors from trying their hands, though, because you’re as apt to get another Misery as you are to get another Graveyard Shift. Sometimes it works…
I’m trying hard not to knock Pavia here, because taking a King adaptation as your debut is just not the right way to go. I prefer to think of this as a misguided first effort from a very promising director. Pavia teams up with a good portion of the cast from this one in his next flick, Slice, which comes out later this year and stars Tony Todd (so it can’t be all bad); I’ll reserve judgment till then. **