JUNE 3, 2008
Like, well, not many of the films I watch ("many" would be like, 250 at this point), Chosen Survivors is a film I never heard of until I saw a trailer for it at the New Beverly (which film it was attached to I can no longer recall, sadly). It didn’t look particularly good, but it did promise killer bats and cheesy 70s disaster movie scenarios. I figure, if nothing else, maybe there’s a joke from Airplane! that would make more sense after I saw it.
It’s not a terrible movie by any stretch, but it’s painfully dated (again: THIS is the type of movie that should be getting remade) and jarringly paced. I wasn’t expecting nonstop killer bat action, but after a good 20 minute chunk in which the bats are pretty much the major focal point of the film, they all but completely disappear for another half hour or so, only to once again become the main antagonist again for the final act. In between these sequences is like something out of another movie, in which our eponymous characters try to cope with their situation, pair off in order to breed, etc. One film or the other would be fine, but they are combined so clumsily they end up canceling one another out; at no point do the two plotlines feel intertwined.
Essentially, it’s like a lost Michael Crichton adaptation. We have our group of experts in various fields stuck together in a situation that requires them to work together to fight off a common threat. You know, like Jurassic Park. Or Congo. Or Sphere. Or Timeline. Or Prey. Or...
One thing I never expected this film to have in common with yesterday’s was something that reminded me of Tourist Trap. Early on, as the elevator taking the characters down to their new home begins to crash, they all flail about in slow motion. However, the AUDIO is quite obviously recorded at the correct speed, with the actors just trying to SOUND slow. Thus, they just utter some hilarious “aaahhhh”s and “ohhhhh”s, sounds that remind me of my favorite Trap scene (where all the mannequins “scream” before falling on the girl). It’s the best part of the movie by far, but sadly, nothing else is as hilariously inept.
One thing that certainly isn’t funny is a would-be rape scene halfway through. Jackie Cooper (Perry!) suddenly attacks one of the female survivors and forces her to the ground. He keeps pressing on and yelling “I won’t hurt you!” and such, and then finally she says “All right!” and returns his kiss. Uh... no. In a straight up exploitation film this might be perversely hilarious, but in the middle of a melodramatic thriller it’s just awkward and wrong. Then again, for all I know there were more things of this nature; according to the IMDb, the film once ran 130 minutes, but all existing copies run only 99 (and thank god, even at that it gets pretty dull – another 31 minutes would be borderline torture).
The bat effects are actually pretty good. They obviously use real bats as often as possible, and there’s a scene where a few of them crawl (yes, crawl) around on one of the girls’ bed and attack her that’s actually pretty damn great. And the film’s most promoted setpiece, where one of the guys climbs up the elevator shaft to try to reach an emergency button (good place for it), is also pretty thrilling, and again, the effects are reasonably believable. Only in the final bat attack did the effects budget clearly run out, with bad projection and an odd blue outline around all of the characters being attacked. Oh well, can’t have it all.
On a two pack with the superior (and shorter, woo!) The Earth Dies Screaming, this is a pretty good deal for under 10 bucks. No extras, but in the age of Roland Emmerich, it’s sort of refreshing to see post-apoc movies with actual ideas, not effects.
What say you?