Ingratiating performers Jennifer Beals and James Wilder are a delight through the first third of “Night Owl” as a couple whose marriage is rocky because he once strayed. Obviously there’s more to it than that, and writers Rose Schacht and Ann Powell provide literate, beguiling dialogue until a spooky radio Siren interferes; someone should brandish garlic or a crucifix against the last two-thirds of the pic.
Seems nighttime deejay Night Owl, whom her station denies airing, lures vulnerable men to their deaths after driving them loony with evil aural magic. Two who succumb are a member of Wilder’s band, and an associate of speech therapist Beals.
Night Owl, described by occult specialist Jackie Burroughs as the “collective rage of all unhappy women who ever existed,” turns her attention to Wilder, who immediately starts acting funny. Beals, secretly still sore over that affair he had, figuratively wrings her hands.
Director Matthew Patrick sets up an entrancing romance as Wilder and Beals try each other out in the earlier part of the telepic, but the intro of the supernatural turns the enchantment into a standard haunt hunt.
Routine visual effects by Cruse & Co. bring Night Owl into focus in whatever form she chooses so she can do her nasty deeds. The real magic between the appealing Beals, who sparked the lamentable “2000 Malibu Road,” and the attractive Wilder is submerged in voodoo antics after the supernatural Night Owl tries prying them apart.
Allison Hossack as Beals’ sister, Justin Louis as the pianist, Patrick Chilvers as the daft therapist are all superb. Burroughs as the ex-historian digging around in the other world is convincing indeed.
Billy Dickson’s lensing is generally superb, particularly in the moody first third of the vidpic, and Susan B. Browdy’s editing is excellent. Dickson and art director James Macateer use colors handsomely to flesh out the story, and Gil Melle’s score, abetted by the music of Jan A.P. Kaczmarek and its saxy implications, is terrif.
Now Schacht and Powell, having demonstrated their facility at writing delightful, clean dialogue and three-dimensional characters, should think up a love story for Beals, Wilder and Patrick to bring to life. TV could use more such pleasures.