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:

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The movie version expands a lot on the short story in the Nightmares and Dreamscapes collection, including an altered ending. In the story Dees just gives the vampire, Dwight Renfield, the film strip in his camera and escapes the encounter with his life. In the film he subsequently races after Dwight because he wants to see his face, who responds by putting him in a trance that ends with Dees unwittingly hacking up the corpses that Dwight is actually responsible for. He's shot by the police and framed as the "real" Night Flier by his rival colleague—ironically putting his face back on the front cover of the tabloid magazine he worked for.
  • An Axe to Grind: Dees uses an axe to defend himself from a horde of vampires. 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.
  • Angry Guard Dog: After Dees investigates a murder site, he's menaced by an angry black dog (implied to be the vampire in disguise) before it seems to teleport back to the spot where it was sitting.
  • 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.
  • Classical Movie Vampire: Dwight Renfield looks like a gentleman in a big black and red cloak with a high collar. It subverts the trope in that he always morphs into a decidedly unpleasant-looking batlike monster when about to kill.
  • 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: An old woman who's been brainwashed by the vampire 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.
  • Going for the Big Scoop: Richard Dees is a scummy tabloid reporter who continues to investigate a series of murders at country airports even when it seems increasingly likely that the killer is a monster of some sort. The vampire finally murders him after noting that coming face to face with a real monster is the culmination of Dees's existence.
  • Hell: In a departure from the short story, in the climax Dees demands to see the vampire's face, who then sends him into a trance so the protagonist can witness a glimpse of Hell, where he's mobbed by the deceased people he profited from in his life.
  • Horror Struck: Richard Dees is a tabloid reporter who has been searching for something supernatural all his life, and has become rather weary of all the cryptoid tales as a result. When he finally runs into a real vampire, the latter notes that meeting him is Richard's destiny, even if it were to kill him.
  • House of Broken Mirrors: The vampire in the film habitually smashes every mirror he comes near.
  • 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.
  • Impersonating an Officer: At one point Dees poses as an FBI Agent to get the details about a grisly double murder from a local sherrif.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Richard Dees is the main reporter for a Lurid Tales of Doom-type magazine who uses a lot of dirty tactics to get stories, often breaking laws to investigate crime scenes. He's not above screwing his colleague over either. His sole motivation throughout the movie is to get his name back on the front cover.
  • 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 Dees 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.
  • Lurid Tales of Doom: Richard Dees works for a tabloid magazine that specializes in things like UFO sightings and satanic rituals to draw in readers.
  • Monstrous Humanoid: Far from a handsome gentleman, Dwight Renfield will always appear as a barely-human bat-like monster to his victims.
  • Not So Different: The vampire, Dwight Renfield, says that Dees's interest in blood is not so different from his own. He then goes out of his way not to kill Dees.
  • 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.
  • Peaceful in Death: The local sheriff tells Dees that Ellen's corpse (drained of all its blood by a vampire who brainwashed her) looked downright peaceful after she was murdered along with her husband, which creeped him and his deputies out to no end.
  • 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. Also, Dwight Frye is the name of the actor who portrayed Renfield in [1].
  • Spoiler Cover: Seeing how it's on the front cover, The Reveal of Dwight's face hardly comes as a surprise to anyone but Dees.
  • Tortured Monster: Dwight may be a bloodthirsty monster who massacres people by the dozens, but there are hints dropped throughout the movie that he loathes what he has become, being forced to live in a maggot-infested aeroplane traveling from airport to airport in search in prey. At the end he also seems to regret killing the protagonist after previous attempts to warn him off.
  • 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 an old photo album in the vampire's plane that shows what he looked like as a human before he became an undead monster.