Mill Creek Entertainment sent over a double feature Blu containing the fright flicks Nightwing and Shadow of the Hawk…two pictures I sure as shit had never heard of…so with out further ado, let’s get acquainted with these and see what’s what boils n’ ghouls!
Nightwing: Down New Mexico way, ol’ Youngman Duran (Nick Mancuso) is John Q. Law for the local Hopi reservation…a reservation that’s balls deep in cattle mutilations. Enter Abner Tasupi (George Clutesi) a medicine man that seems to be pushing eleventy billion years old. This coot claims he cast a spell to end the world this very night…well one person’s world did end, Abner’s as by morning he is dead as are a shepherd and his flock.
Among that headache, Duran is tasked to keep the grizzly goings-on secret as oil has been discovered on the reservation, and the locals don’t want anything to fuck up that deal let me tell ya. Soon the source of the trouble makes it’s flapping ass known as it turns out that hoary ol’ chestnut vampire bats infected with bubonic plague are going absolutely…well batshit and killing folks six ways to Sunday! Good luck dealin’ with that hot mess lawman!
Nightwing is an interesting entry in the “nature runs amok” subgenre of the horror biz so popular in the 1970’s. The reservation setting, unique animal menace, and a possible supernatural connection make the picture stand out from the crowd that’s for damn sure. Also of note are the strong cast including the likes of Mancuso, Stephen Macht, and genre legend David Warner really play the material with extreme conviction…a tone matched by the entire film no matter how outlandish the goings-on may be. While we are on the subjecy of actors…
On the downside, you can bet your arcane ass there are plenty of folks in this film that are about as Native American as a bowl of Chicken Chow Mein (never trust a black wig and a tan my creeps). Yeah, I know it was the times…but it does make a sinister soul happy that the times they are a changin’. Another negative is the very slow pace of this picture…there are segments that suffer from lead ass, and at an hour and forty-five minutes this flick could have used some serious trimming.
Bottom line, Nightwing is an interesting, if flawed, man vs. nature flick that boasts a unique premise and strong performances and should be seen by fans of the genre.
Shadow of the Hawk: Mike (Jan-Michael Vincent) is a half Native American dude wheelin’ and dealin’ in the big city…but lately his heritage is coming back to him in a big way. First off he’s seeing fucked up spirits floating outside his high-rise windows, and then his grandfather Old Man Hawk (Chief Dan George) comes a-hobbling into town while suffering the effects of some bad magic. Anyway ol’ Hawk wants to drag Mike back home to help him battle an evil spirit giving him static (note: with that reveal his ass would be taking a bus home, and I’d get back to my daily routine…but that’s just your’s cruelly).
Shadow of the Hawk is a fine lil’ fright flick. The element of black magic and spirits gives it that fun ’70’s occultism tone, and the fact that it’s Native American magic gives the proceedings a unique flavor (though there were other pictures out at the time with a similar vibe such as William Girdler’s 1978 opus The Manitou which actually would make a fun double bill with this film). Also of note, Vincent makes for a charismatic lead and his exploits are enjoyable to follow, and Chief Dan George adds the film a great sense of gravitas and believability as the elder with ties to the ancient magic of his people. Speaking of that magic, the visions and spirits that pop up in this film are a great visual element and just the right dash of over-the-top supernatural shenanigans!
As with the last picture, utilizing a white actor as Native is going to always stick out in this day and age…but at least they try to cushion the blow by making him only half Native…okay, I realize the filmmakers didn’t give a shit about that, the fact he’s only half is supposed to show the two divergent sides of not only the character but the world the film inhabits (modern cities and the woods filled with ancient ways)…but it helps to conquer the hurdle for modern audiences.
Full of magic spells, spirits, and straight up adventure elements, Shadow of the Hawk is a satisfying fright flick experience, and shouldn’t be missed by fans of ’70’s era occultism and mysticism!