FEBRUARY 26, 2009
You know what I don’t miss? Overproduced animated menus on DVDs. Having the main menu do something cool is one thing, but when you go to select a chapter on a late 90s release like The Night Flier, and it takes an additional 10-15 seconds because each page (4 chapters per page) has to whish and whoosh and “wow” us with its after effects glory, it gets pretty goddamn annoying. Nowadays, they don’t bother, and I thank them for it.
Anyway, the movie itself is pretty solid, though the fact that it went theatrical is more amazing than anything in the film itself. Granted, it was a limited release, but it shows you just how horror-starved movie theaters were in the mid 90s that a movie in which almost nothing happens, starring a guy known for bit roles, could play alongside whatever big blockbusters were out at the time.
Luckily - that guy is Miguel Ferrer, who is someone you can’t help but love. Like Jeremy Piven, he seemingly only has one acting persona (in Ferrer’s case - sarcastic hardass, as opposed to Piven's sarcastic just-plain-ass), but it’s a persona I always enjoy seeing, so to put him in the lead for a film is a stroke of awesomeness, and I laud director Mark Pavia for casting him. On the surface, he’s a pretty unlikable person, but Ferrer gives him just enough charm to keep you from wanting to simply see him dead.
And that’s good, because he’s pretty much the only guy in the movie. As it is based on a Stephen King short story (VERY short - I think it was like 20 pages), there’s hardly a lot of plot here. Pavia has added a rival reporter (the Phoebe Cates-ish Julie Entwisle) to pad things out a bit, but it’s not quite as successful as he probably intended, since her scenes stick out and never really amount to much - her character could be removed entirely and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. The ending wouldn’t have as much of a cynical coda, but that’s about it.
The rest of the movie is mainly Ferrer snapping photos, snarling at people, and looking puzzled as he scans the skies and rooftops for the title character. It gets kind of repetitive, as you can imagine. The lack of prominent other characters robs the film from more moments where Ferrer gets to butt heads, a fact that got more noticeable as it went on (there are like 6 scenes of him speaking to his recorder). Had this feature film not been made, the story would have been a great candidate for a Nightmares & Dreamscapes episode, but oh well.
One highlight is the gore. I was not expecting the movie to have as much splatter and dismemberment as it does. It won’t give Dead Alive a run for its money or anything, but for a low budget movie, I was happy to see so much on the screen. The KNB makeup effects are as amazing as ever, and the finale has Ferrer wielding an ax against a horde of zombies (it’s not a zombie film). This sequence is black and white, and I suspect that may have been a way around an NC-17 (the MPAA is strangely averse to the color of red, which is why the Evil Dead movies spray green stuff all around instead).
In the end, it’s a slight, but solid little movie. I wouldn’t go so far to say that the story demanded a feature film (a theatrical release at that), but it still turned out better than about half of the King adaptations, even ones based on full length novels, making it a perfect Sunday afternoon viewing on cable (the DVD isn’t worth picking up unless it’s dirt cheap - the only extras are some production notes and the trailer, and it’s probably not a movie you’d ever want to watch a 2nd time). Now, someone write a buddy movie for Ferrer and Piven!
What say you?