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Monday, November 19, 2018

Nightwing (1979)

Set in New Mexico, a young Maskai Native American (Nick Mancuso) is a tribal deputy on an Indian reservation. When animals start turning up dead under mysterious circumstances (strange bites to the bone, drained of blood, the scent of ammonia), it will lead him to confront both his tribal legacy and deadly vampire bats. Based on the novel by Martin Cruz Smith (GORKY PARK) and directed by Arthur Hiller (LOVE STORY). The 1975  film of JAWS spawned a proliferation of animals terrorizing humans movies like ORCA (killer whale), PIRANHA, TENTACLES (squid) etc. This focuses on vampire bats. As a horror film, it's a failure. The bat effects are weak, there's little tension and it's steeped in Native American mysticism (or superstition if you prefer) that muddles the waters. Three of the four leads are ciphers. Nick Mancuso, Kathryn Harrold and Stephen Macht. Who you may ask? Indeed. Three bland actors who can't hold the screen to save their life (or the movie). Only David Warner as a British scientist brings any gravitas to his role. There is one all too brief moment of genuine tension when the protagonists are in a mesh cage when attacked by the bats and the film could have used more moments like that one. The best thing about the film is the terrific score by Henry Mancini. With Ben Piazza, Strother Martin and George Clutesi.

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