The Night Flier Review

There’s a serial killer about. He flies by night in a black-painted light aircraft, lands at out-of-the-way airports and kills everyone who has the misfortune to be around at the time. Their bodies are found the next day, drained of blood. Journalist Richard Dees (Miguel Ferrer), writer of lurid stories for a National Enquirer-ish tabloid, is put on the trail. So is junior reporter Katherine (Julie Entwistle) as they try to discover who, or what, is The Night Flier…

The Night Flier was first published in Douglas Winter’s landmark horror anthology Prime Evil and later appeared in King’s collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes. It was the first story in Prime Evil and far from the best, though undoubtedly King’s name on the cover helped shift copies. The story is second-rate King, and the film is no more than average. It looks and feels like a TV movie, what with the second-string cast, first-time director and a horribly overlit video-friendly camerawork. (Scenes set at night seem to be taking place under floodlights.) However, there are signs, from the New Line Cinema logo at the front, to the composition for 1.85:1 – see below – and the way-beyond-TV levels of gore and profanity, that this was intended for cinema release, even if it didn’t get much of one if at all.

Miguel Ferrer at least tries to do something with his role, deliberately avoiding playing for audience sympathy as he plays Richard as a hard-edged, ruthless bastard with an eye for a scoop. On the other hand, Julie Entwistle is no more than bland as Katherine, who Richard nicknames “Jimmy”. (As in Olson, a reference that will mean more to Americans than anyone else.) Director Mark Pavia deliberately, and wisely, keeps his monster (played by Michael H. Moss) in darkness until the very end, so no prizes for Mosaic’s packaging which features the title character on the cover. Pavia’s direction shows some ability, but a true test will be material much less routine than this.

Mosaic’s DVD is full-frame open-matte, though it’s clear from the headroom in most shots that this film was intended to be cropped to a wider ratio, namely 1.85:1. Owners of widescreen sets can always zoom the image to 16:9 if they wish. Picture quality is okay, with the overlit look of the night scenes no doubt the fault of the original. There are some instances of aliasing here and there.

The soundtrack is Dolby Surround, with the surrounds being used mostly for some quite loud music. The subwoofer gets some use, especially with the aircraft noise that accompanies the main menu!

Extras are basic. There’s a trailer (running 1:27). The biographies don’t include filmographies, as presumably many of the people involved are first-timers, but film titles where appropriate are included in the text. Along with the four principal cast members, there are biographies of Pavia, Howard Berger (special effects), Richard P. Rubinstein, Mitchell Galin (producers) and King. The production notes are quite extensive, in eight sections accessible via a submenu or readable from beginning to end. The final extra is a 16-picture photo gallery with a submenu made up of thumbnails.

The Night Flier will be of most interest to horror fans and King completists, though it’s no more than an average film from one of King’s lesser works. The DVD has a reasonably decent number of extras, but nothing outstanding or out of the ordinary.

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