Stephen King's The Night Flier (1997)

Never believe what you publish...Never publish what you believe.

Reviewed by Simon Drake

Directed by Mark Pavia
Starring Miguel Ferrer and Julie Entwisle

    Richard Dees (Ferrer) a reporter for the hack magazine 'Inside view' (a sort of National Enquirer "Aliens ate Elvis in the Whitehouse!" type rag) follows the trail of a supposed vampire flying a microlight to deserted airports and murdering people. He soon finds himself getting a little too obsessed by the killer, who calls himself Dwight Renfield, and a little too pissed off at Katherine Blair, the rookie reporter who's also assigned to the case. When Dees finally ditches Katherine (by putting her in a wardrobe and wiring the doors shut. Natch!) and catches up with Renfield, who turns out to actually be a vampire, Renfield possesses him. Causing Dees to go on a kill crazy axe rampage through an airport, and is shot and killed by the cops (who show up in the nick of time) and framed for Renfield's murders.
    Renfield walks Scott free and turns into Patrick Bergin for some reason, and flies away (to presumably kill again) whilst Katherine makes the front page for her exposé on Dees: 'The Night Flier defanged'.

What's wrong with it?

    One of the numerous films adapted from a half-baked Stephen King book (in this case a short story) padded out for 90 minutes. With a bit of a dumb concept, a serial killing Vampire flying a plane. The vampire, with its Emperor Palpatine voice, Harry Hill turned up collars and rubber mask face just isn't scary, by the time you see it, completely ruins all the creepy atmosphere of the previous 80 minutes. And the finale, involving lots of dry ice, and decomposing zombies and galleons of fake blood, looks like 'Michael Jackson's Thriller' video.

What's right with it?

    Miguel Ferrer playing the permanently pissed off Dees, the kind of sleazy reporter that knocks over victim's tombstones and drips his blood on them for a better photo opportunity. He actually gives a really good performance, (especially going bonkers and waving an axe around covered with fake blood) and it's always good value when Miguel Ferrer swears constantly (see Robocop for further proof).
    The first half is quite creepy, with some moody lighting and slick(ish) camerawork, and for once there is a film journalist actually doing journalist work, phoning people, waiting on hold, sitting alone on a laptop in their motel room. Rather than the usual film clichés of being an idealistic maverick, exchanging snappy patter and taking the law into their own hands.

How bad is it really?

    Not terrible by any means, but sadly all the good work of the character development and plot set up is so ruined by the damp squib ending.

Best bit?

    The vampire at a urinal peeing blood, but as Dees (and the viewer) is seeing it in the reflection of a mirror…Well I'm sure you can guess. Probably the first ever 'floating vampire blood urine' scene in film history.

What's up with…?


Production Values - Actually pretty good. The lighting is quite stylish; really good for such an obviously low budget and some fairly gory effects; lots of misty deserted runways and decapitated heads. Although loses some points as the vampire looks completely crap. 10

Dialogue and performance - The script has a few occasional one-liners, and there are some memorable lines (maybe taken straight from the King story, I can't remember as it's been a while since I read it) Ferrer is excellent, Julie Entwisle is fine as the green journalist turns deviant hack reporter. Most of the supporting cast, i.e. potential murder victims, seem to be able to string their sentences together with some articulation. The only person who is a bit lame is Dan Monahan as the magazine editor, who cackles evilly at times, and is a bit shady, but for no reason. 7

Plot and execution - The plot is simple, and not amazingly interesting (and is let down by the ending) however the director manages to create a creepy ambience, a fairly linear narrative and gets reasonable performances from all the actors. 10

Randomness - A few minor quibbles aside. Piles of dirt? Patrick Bergin? Why photojournalist Dees keeps moving his camera, or putting his finger over the lens when he takes a picture? Mostly it's okay though. 7

Waste of potential - A fairly solid adaptation from the short story, a decent lead actor and competent directing. I think this was as good as anyone's expectation, it's just a shame they couldn't have made the ending a bit scarier as this could have been a nice little horror. 11

Overall 45%


Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal (2001)

Reviewed by Simon Drake

Directed by Jorge Montesi
Starring Craig Sheffer, Joe Magtegna and Rutger Hauer

    The sequel to the flop Ray Liotta film and its sequel that I've never heard of. It's a sequel because it…erm…has a plane in it.
    Slade Craven, a Marilyn Manson alike rock superstar (who looks like The Crow without the charisma) is giving the worlds first ever live Internet concert onboard a 747 as his final show. However after two songs he's knocked out and a tied up by Simon "Okely Dokely" Flanders, a devil worshipping terrorist who, disguised as Craven, takes control of the plane and plans to crash it into a church in Kansas. Kansas is said to be the most unholy place in the world (I'm sure the tourist board just love that) and this church is the 7th gateway to hell, so crashing a 747 into it will do?…Erm?…Anyway... The real Craven soon wakes up, breaks free and guided by a maverick computer hacker fan and a plucky FBI agent goes all Die Hard as he fights his way through the two terrorists and lands the plane.

What's wrong with it?

    When a films pitch is 'Marilyn Manson meets Passenger 57 starring Rutger Hauer as a Satanic terrorist leader of the Gateway Guardians' it really should be obvious to anyone this isn't going to be much cop. It's completely implausible with some huge plot holes and woeful miscasting.
    Craig Sheffer as grunge dude-cum-hacker convinces on no levels whatsoever, Gabrielle Anwar as the most unlikely and impossibly attractive FBI agent/hacker tracker of all time (and she convinces Craig Sheffer she's a pizza delivery girl to worm into his apartment!).
    Sadly our old mate Rutger reduced to a rather thankless role of co-pilot/terrorist leader who spends the entire film sitting in the cockpit not interacting with any other actors and then shoots himself.
    All the Goth teenagers are all bloody annoying too, and depressingly none of them get killed.

What's right with it?

    Joe Magtegna turns up after 45 minutes and gives it a touch of class, despite clearly not trying (and who can blame him when all he does is talk into a mobile phone and occasionally blag a decent line).
    A few good one-liners get in past the joke police, and there is a decent explosion, and it's always fun to see a long haired Goth in leather trousers go all Bruce Willis on terrorists.

How bad is it really?

    Rubbish in terms of quality, but considering it's mind-bogglingly silly and relentlessly daft it makes it very watchable trash.

Best Bit?

    Joe Magtegna is trying to negotiate with Simon Flanders:
        "What do you want?"
        "For you to die!"
        (With deadly seriousness) "Ok…I'll put it on the list"

What's up with…?


Production Values - Pretty limp really. Lots of 'lights on…Lights off' lightning effects and fake rain on the windscreen. The rest of the lighting is all quite dark. I get the impression the film seems to have been made with one actor on set at a time saying their lines to off screen or (it's fave trick) into a mobile phone then edited together later. Plus a whole load of stock footage shoved in and only a couple of sets. 16

Dialogue and performance - There is a couple of decent lines, but the rest is a little garbled. Although note must be given to the obvious research into plane mechanics and techno talk. Rutger Hauer, even for Rutger Hauer doesn't seem to interested in the gig, Gabrielle Anwar and Craig Sheffer fare a little better, but are both miscast badly. Joe Magtegna makes a valiant effort, whilst all the support players are shockingly bad. Especially the really irritating Fairuza Balk Goth teenager. 15

Plot and execution - With a plot stolen for a thousand other films, stock footage and a bunch of ridiculous set pieces. The Director has little to do other than fill in the gaps, and let it splutter along in a rather pedestrian manor.... Which he does admirably. 17

Randomness - Lots. Which is quite fun to play spot the bizarre bit. Craig Sheffer was also in Turbulence 2: Fear of Flying (hopefully not adapted from the Erica Jong novel) as a completely different character. That's how random this film is! 19

Waste of potential - Plane/terrorist movies are a dime a dozen, and this is the 3rd of a not terribly great series of them. So my hopes weren't high to start with. However the idea of Marilyn Manson as a lone action hero is quite a novel one. 13

Overall 80%


A Knight's Tale (2001)

Reviewed by James Holloway

Directed by Brian Helgeland
Starring Heath Ledger, Rufus Sewell, and Shannyn Sossamon

    William Thatcher is a poor squire accompanying a broken-down old knight from tournament to tournament. When the boss dies, Will (with the connivance of the other yokel squires) impersonates him -- cause who can tell under all that armor? -- in order to get the prize money. Full of the desire to compete, he continues going to tournaments, assembling a ragtag band of followers including a plucky female blacksmith (Laura Fraser) and Geoffrey Chaucer (yes, Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany)). But watch out, folks! William isn’t actually a noble, and could get into trouble if this is found out.
    Everything seems to be going well, but William falls for lovely princess Jocelyn (total unknown Shannyn Sossamon) and thereby intensifies his rivalry with the evil Adhemar (Rufus Sewell, boo hiss). Jocelyn doesn’t like jousting and tries to persuade William to prove his love by giving it up; Adhemar tries to reveal William’s secret; there’s a dance scene; there are flashbacks involving William’s father; it ends with a big tournament... and that’s about it really.

What’s wrong with it?

    Well, lots of people would say “the horrible anachronisms:” French peasants sing “We Will Rock You” at a joust, Kate the balcksmith stamping her work with the Nike “swoosh,” all that kind of thing. If you accept that the film is an attempt to make a classic boxing movie set in the middle ages, all those objections fade, and you’re left with the fact that the film isn’t any good anyway, mainly because neither Ledger nor Sossamon could act their way out of a sack.

What’s right with it?

    The comedy sidekicks are funny sometimes, in an undemanding way, and some of the fight scenes are quite well-done. The violence and danger of the sport is adequately conveyed.

How bad is it really?

 An interesting project which fails on almost all counts.

Best Bit?

    Uh... I guess the bit where Adhemar tries to explain the technical aspects of jousting to Joscelyn, thereby illuminating William’s personality. But that’s not all that great either, really. (I thought that scene was just one big offside rule joke - The Prophet)

What’s up with…?

    Most of the anachronisms are intentional, but still:


Production Values – Not too bad, actually. Stunts, special effects, good-looking locations, lots of people in costume. Some dodgy lighting from time to time, but that’s about it. 7

Dialogue and performance – Bad. Really bad. The comedy sidekicks are quite funny in a Medieval Times kind of way, but the leads are total cardboard and baddie Rufus “car payment’s due” Sewell is phoning it in -- on a cellphone with really bad static. 17

Plot and execution – Pretty simple stuff, really -- working-class hero seeks fame, fortune, and the love of a good woman in the prize ring. Unnecessarily complicated with loads of extra characters, strange references to medieval literature, etc. 13

Randomness – High. I don’t care if it is intentional. I think whole scenes may just have been improvised. 15

Waste of potential – Also high. Big-budget film tries to do something new and weird - and dribbles all over itself in the process. 14

Overall 66%