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31 Nightmares

31 Nightmares

Friday, April 13, 2018

Nightflyers


Nightflyers
1987
Robert Collector

A strange signal in space may or may not lead to contact with a mythical alien race. A contact team is assembled and placed aboard a ship that heads out in search of these beings, but little do these passengers know that their pilot, a man who never leaves the cockpit and only communicates via hologram has a terrible secret that might kill the crew before they ever meet any aliens.

Nightflyers starts with a lot of ground to cover and does so in the least interesting way possible. The film needs to convey a number of things, it is set at some point in the future, there are telepaths, there is advanced spaced travel, there may or may not be fabled aliens on the verge of being discovered, there are cybernetics, and there are advanced AI technologies. Rather than demonstrating all of this, Nightflyers indulges in a lengthy voiceover as a single character relates what all of the other characters do and what their personalities are like. It is simultaneously an overwhelming and underwhelming introduction.

"My unitard is bunching up!"
The movie continues in this vein through 2/3 of its run-time. It keeps introducing concepts by telling the audience, but never really ventures beyond that. There are some really intriguing ideas here too, the twisted notion of having a cross-sex clone made to serve both as lover and child, and the idea that rage and jealousy can continue on past the death of a physical body to exist in a machine form, just to name a few. This coupled with a sizable cast of characters is enough for a movie twice as long, but Nightflyers lacks the resources to work with all of its components.

The final third is given solely to our dwindling number of heroes attempting to put a dangerous computer mom to rest. The final act drags on too long, and while there are some inspired moments, including a delightful limb removal via laserbeam scene, mostly it’s a chore to watch. When the final explosion filled climax arrives it is a relief more than an exhilarating moment.

The ensemble cast is quite good, Catherine Mary Stweart, and James Avery almost save Nightflyers from being a complete waste of time. There are far too many characters who are barely sketched out as people to keep the audience engaged, but that fault lies in the writing and not the acting.

My skin is exactly like this in the winter.
Visually the film has an interesting look, the planetside city is an industrial maze, the exterior of the ship is a menacing black art-deco creation that would look equally at home in Alien (1979) or Flash Gordon (1980), the interior, however, looks like the world's most haunted mall complete with pastel colors, bright lights and plenty of fog. It is a combination of looks that could have only come out of the late 1980s and while it is not to everyone’s taste I enjoyed its oddness. Helping that eerie atmosphere immensely is the way that the world seems empty. We don’t see anyone outside of our main characters and the fact that such a vast ship is piloted by a single person is even brought up an issue.

Nightflyers as a concept and setting has a lot of potentials, but the movie continuously wastes them and it ultimately fails as both a science-fiction film and a horror film. The actors do the best with what they have but their efforts are unable to right this ship. The poster is great though, so there is that at least.

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