Sunday, July 22, 2012

Review - Nightwing

There's nothing like watching an old movie.

And in this case, by "Old," I mean 1979.  Nightwing is the story of a man who loves to kill bats, and a couple of indians duking it out with magic.  This movie is almost as old as I am, so let me just sum it up for you.  Youngman Duran, Sheriff of the Maski indian territory, is a man with problems.  His girlfriend is thinking about leaving him, his tribal chieftain is a greedy double dealing backstabber, and the crazy old indian shaman who raised him has decided to end the world.  Oh, and there have been some odd animal mutilations in his territory.  Aside from the overpowering odor of ammonia and the numerous small wounds on the bodies of the dead cattle, there's not much to go on.  Oh, and they've been drained of blood.  And on top of all that, his surrogate father, Abner, the crazy old indian shaman, becomes the first human victim to die the same way as the cattle.

Duran tries to bury Abner, but the body begins to bleed after death, and then the body disappears from the grave overnight.  Duran suspects his tribal elders, priests of the same Fire Clan as Abner, because they feared his power.  But all the elder priests of the Fire Clan are now dead, and they aren't the only ones.  People begin to die the same way as the cattle, attacked by swarms of Vampire Bats, as Duran's girlfriend soon discovers, much to her horror!  :-o

So now Duran has even more problems.  He's got to go rescue his girlfriend, kill the swarm of bats, and counter Abner's final spell, the one that summoned Yehwah, the Maski god of Death, and he's not even a shaman!  And he has to do all this while Chee, the greedy corrupt tribal chieftain, has put a phony warrant out for his arrest to shut him up long enough to allow a mining deal in the sacred indian territory of the Maski canyons.  Which...  is also where the bats are hiding out!  :-o

I've loved Nightwing ever since I was a kid.  It's a horror movie that is steeped in the ancient indian traditions of the southwest.  At least, I think it is.  I don't actually know if any of it is made up or not, because I'm too damn lazy to check, but it feels like it is.  As far as I know, they cast spells using pictograms, rendered in dyes and paints and powders, which are used in this film, and they used to live in pueblos, houses and villages cut into the sides of mountains, and these are featured in this movie as well.  The only other movie I know of that features as much indian symbolism is Manitou, a movie with Tony Curtis, probably either the only, or one of the only, horror movies that Tony Curtis ever appeared in.  In Nightwing, Nick Mancuso played Duran, the lead.  Kathryn Harrold played his love interest, and David Warner plays the doctor who absolutely hates Vampire Bats.

Besides the battle of wills between Duran and Abner (who was powerful enough to fight Duran even while he was dead), there's the whole Vampire bat aspect of things going on.  David Warner does an excellent job portraying the cute fuzzy little devils as...  well... devils.  The climax is both weird and exciting, and the movie certainly doesn't leave many pauses between the action.  The desert southwest is featured prominently, the mythology of the area colors everything that happens, and the characters are well portrayed and acted.  There have been several horror movies with bats made since, but none have been as good.

There are two ways to view this movie.  There is the way portrayed by David Warner, the way of the scientist tracking and killing the Vampire bats.  They've been migrating north, he says, and they are the epitome of evil, they take everything from their victims by way of their life's blood, and give only toxic pools of ammonia in return.  He's destroyed swarms of these things, and he's going to track and kill this one because that's what he does.  He doesn't need money.  He does it because no one else can.  The vampire bats are simply vicious animals that need to be put down before they kill more people, and also because they carry a virulent strain of bubonic plague.  Or there is Duran's way.  Abner summoned the Vampire bats to kill the white man, but yehwah, the Maski god of Death, isn't discriminating.  He's killing everyone, Maski indians included, and Duran just can't let it continue.  Which one is true?

Don't worry gentle readers!  If I find any more old horror movies laying around the internet, I'l let you know!  :-)

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