Film: The Night Flier

The Night Flier is a 1997 horror film based on Stephen King’s short story by the same name, which was published as part of the Nightmares and Dreamscapes collection. It starred Miguel Ferrer in the lead.

Richard Dees is the lead reporter for a low-fodder conspiracy and urban legend-newspaper called the Inside View. After years of investigating bloody crime scenes, Dees has become particularely burned out with his job. When reports of a mysterious killer called the "Night Flier" start circulating, who travels from airport to airport to slaughter everyone present, Dees goes out to investigate—finding far more than he bargained for.

This story provides examples of:

  • An Axe to Grind: Dees uses an axe to defend himself from a horde of zombies. This eventually turns out to be a hallucination, implicating Dees for the vampire's crimes because he's been hacking up his victims just before the police arrived.
  • Antagonist Title: The eponymous "Night Flier" is the vampire villain of the story, alluding to the way he goes to airports at night with his private plane to claim victims.
  • Bloody Horror: As a vampire story, it makes a lot of use of this. Mutilated, bloody corpses are frequently seen, Dwight writes messages in blood, and the inside of his airplane is covered in blood, dirt and maggots.
  • Blood Magic: Dees visits the grave of one of the vampire's latest victims at night time, then cuts open his thumb to smear a bit of blood on the tombstone, allowing him to see where the Night Flier is going. This warlock routine sorta comes out of nowhere, as Dees was shown as nothing but a cynic of the supernatural before.
  • Brainwashed: The vampire can put his victims into a trance of infatuation with him to make it easier to kill them.
  • Breaking and Bloodsucking: The Night Flier pays a visit to the elderly Sarche couple. The following day, the husband shuts down the airfield and the wife visits the beauty parlor. The husband is found with his head torn off on one end of the trailer. The wife is found, her blood completely drained, in bed; with new lingerie, a peaceful expression, and a copy of The Vampire Lestat.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: The vamp writes a message in blood on Dees's motel room window: "STAY AWAY". Dees doesn't listen.
  • Death by Adaptation: In the original short story, Richard Dees survives the encounter with the vampire at the airport after giving him his camera footage. In the film, Dees is placed in a nightmarish trance by the vampire and is then shot and killed when he attacks two police officers.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: A hallucination sequence of the vampire’s victims turning into living dead is in black and white, adding to the eerieness of the scene.
  • Dissonant Serenity: One of the vampire's victims, an elderly woman, is brainwashed into a girlish infatuation with him. She calmly sits on the front porch of her house as her husband is murdered in front of her, then walks back inside and waits for the vampire to devour her too.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: When Dees investigates Dwight Renfield's plane near the end, he looks through a photo album that Dwight has still kept all these years. It contains a picture of Dwight's long-dead wife, hinting that he still has some affection for her.
  • If It Bleeds, It Leads: This is the entire journalistic tactic of the low-grade magazine Inside View: the gorier and grislier the crimes they report are, the more issues it will sell. At one point the editor boasts that he hopes the mystery killer claims more victims.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Dees uses a lot of dirty tactics to get his story
  • Jerkass:
    • Richard Dees is, at best, frankly an asshole who treats everyone like shit and will screw over his colleagues to get his name back on the front page.
    • Richard's boss Merton Morrison takes it up a notch. He's the sleazy editor of the paranormal tabloid magazine Inside View, and has even less standards than Dwight about what to print or investigate. At one point he loudly declares that he hopes the killer takes more victims, because it will make for a better story.
  • Monstrous Humanoid: Far from a handsome gentleman, Dwight Renfield will always appear as a barely-human bat-like monster to his victims.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: At one point, Richard Dees has a nightmare about the vampire hovering over him as Richard is sleeping in his motel room. He wakes up and it turns out to be a dream… except immediately afterwards he finds out that the vamp left a warning written in blood on his window.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Vampires are vicious, humanoid monsters who slaughter their victims by the dozens. Their abilities include brainwashing (apparently from long-distances) and inducing hallucinations. The vampire’s use of a small airplane to find victims at remote airports stands in for traditional flight powers.
  • Red Baron: The vampire's name is Dwight Renfield. "The Night Flier" is a monicker given to him by Dees to sell his story.
  • Serial Killer: Subverted. It’s initially believed that Dwight is a serial killer who travels between airports in his private plane to commit mass slaughters, but it later turns out that he is a vampiric monster who has been around for nearly a century.
  • Shout-Out: Dwight Renfield is noted in-universe to be an obvious allusion to The Renfield character from the original Dracula.
  • Sympathy for the Hero: The vampire Dwight Renfield has some respect for Richard Dees, the reporter who's investigating his feedings. He sees him as something of a kindred spirit, and goes out of his way to get him to stop pursuing him so he doesn't have to kill him.
  • Tortured Monster: Dwight is a monstrous vampire who goes around with his small aeroplane to remote airports to butcher everyone there and satiate his hunger. At the end he emotes this trope with a mere look since after leaving the building he stops, morphs back from the feral creature of nightmares to the human face he once was, and shows nothing but sadness and remorse for what he has become.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: Richard Dees is a very world-weary sort who will screw over his colleagues to get ahead and is an ass to everyone in general. He often breaks laws to investigate crime scenes to document all the death and slaughter just to get a front page scoop.
  • Vampire Bites Suck: Discussed Trope by Richard Dees. The vampire doesn't leave tiny bite marks, but punctures the necks of his victims with his giant fangs. If he even leaves them in one piece, that is.
  • Was Once a Man: Dees finds a photo album in the vampire Dwight's plane that shows how he too was once a man before he became the stuff of nightmares.