I want to credit another review I read somewhere on the internet about a year ago for informing me about the existence of this film, but I just can’t find it. I am thankful to whoever that reviewer was because The Night Flier is an excellent film. One I fear many horror fans have never seen, so let’s remedy that situation right now with this little mini-review that should send you scurrying off to findthis screen gem.
The screenplay is written by Stephen King and the director Michael Pavia and based on a short-story of the same name written by King that first appeared in the Prime Evil anthology in 1988. The movie features the character of Richard Dees; the very worse kind of gutter-press reporter who works for a horrendous fictional tabloid called The Inside View. If you are American or Canadian the nearest equivalent to this would be The National Enquirer and, if you are from the UK, the recently dead and buried News of the World. His character seems based on a more malign and unpleasant version of Carl Kolchak (see Second Run: Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Gonzo of the Macabre!). He is a sleazy, sensationalist with no empathy for the people in his stories and a burning ambition to hit the front pages with the nastiest scoops imaginable.
In a nutshell, the story concerns Dees’ investigation of a serial killer who drains his victims of blood and transports himself around the country in a sinister black Cessna Skymaster. Ordinarily, it would be a simple, run-of-the-mill schlock-fest, but for one aspect. The performances. Everyone acts their socks off in this film. Miguel Ferrer plays Dees to a tee. Dan Monahan plays Merton Morrison- Dees’ utterly amoral editor at The Inside View and the lovely Julie Entwhistle is Dees’ naive, young protegé Katherine Blair. There are also great performances from the rest of the cast especially John Bennes as Ezra Hannon, the yokelley aircraft mechanic. Now I’ve both lived and traveled through the boonies of several countries and his portrayal is just spot-on. The film is short, snappy and low-budget, but efficient- a great popcorn/pizza night movie.
Incidentally, if you want to see more of Dees, he features briefly in another of King’s works- the earlier Dead-Zone, made into a film in 1983.
For some inexplicable reason this movie has only rated 5.7 at IMDB and three stars at Rotten Tomatoes, but don’t let that put you off. In my opinion (which is not humble) this is probably the one of the best Stephen King screen adaptations I have seen; barring the sublime The Shining and the excellent Dead Zone, of course.
One conundrum I have yet to solve about this film is the mystery of what happened to Julie Entwhistle after this gig. She seems to have disappeared entirely from movie history. According to IMDB, she only starred in two movies and her google profile is almost less visible than I am! If you have any knowledge of what happened to her, comment please.