APRIL 4, 2009
Roughly every monster or “Predator” type horror movie (basically any movie where a number of natural creatures attack humans) ends with a shot of an undiscovered egg or whatever, setting up a sequel. In many cases, this sequel never actually comes (which is usually a good thing - that Godzilla II that was threatened is never going to happen), but in the case of Bats, it actually DID get a sequel almost a decade later (Bats: Human Harvest), for whoever the fuck was asking for one. And given my “job” here at HMAD, I would have rented it by now, had I seen the original. But alas, I apparently had better things to do in October of 1999 than go see a killer bat movie*.
Given that it was a theatrical release, you expect it to be better than Sci-Fi original fare, and for the most part it is (thanks to a script by John Logan - who would be nominated for an Oscar the following year for Gladiator). The effects are decent (though there seems to be about four different bat species in this roost), and there’s a lot more action and production value in any given scene than your Ice Spiders or Anaconda 3s have in their entirety. The actors are also more engaging than usual. Ironically, the folks here (Lou Diamond Phillips, Leon, Dina Meyer) would probably jump at the chance to take the lead role in a Sci-Fi movie nowadays, but back then they were still fairly relevant. And you can never go wrong with Bob Gunton.
There are two big problems that keep it from being an overall success though. One is the strange pace - the movie is seemingly on overdrive for the first 45 minutes (there are more bat attack scenes in the first 20 minutes of Bats than there are in the entirety of Nightwing), but the pace cannot be sustained, resulting in a rather dull 2nd half. At first I was pretty impressed by how fast moving it was (hell, the requisite “YOU were the one that created these!” scene takes place mere moments after the guy is introduced!), and was wondering how they could top it for a finale. But they don’t. The finale is actually a lot like Nightwing’s - our heroes go into a cave to set up some gizmo and then hightail it out of there before the entrance is sealed. And only Lou and Dina enter, so you know the bats aren’t going to get one final kill in, resulting in a finale in which they might as well just have presented with onscreen text for all of the excitement it creates.
The other problem is Louis Morneau’s directing. As the director of Hitcher II and Joy Ride: Dead Ahead, I wasn’t expecting much, but he actually makes those duds look good in comparison with his work here (which may explain why he never again helmed a theatrical release, despite the film’s modest success). For whatever reason, he films half of the movie using di-opter lenses, even for scenes where the characters are relatively close together anyway. He also has a strange affinity for smearing and/or skewing the image. It’s ok for “Bat POV” shots, but he uses it EVERYWHERE, even in scenes where the bats aren’t even present. It certainly doesn’t look good, and it eventually becomes a distraction, particularly in wide shots in which our heroes resemble Mike Teevee once he’s been stretched back out.
He also seemingly went out of his way to find the least compatible stock footage for some army jets heading toward the town to blow it all to hell. You’re all into the movie and all of a sudden you’re seeing dailies from Iron Eagle.
One thing I will praise is the sound mix. It’s awesome! The bats can be heard swarming in from all around you, and the directional effects are above average as well. I would consider it a perfect soundtrack if they had only thought to mute Meyer when she delivers a line about how she can “hear the bats’ sonar”. How do you “hear” an abstract concept? Yeah, and I can smell hunger.
The DVD has a menu created by a Photoshop template, an EPK behind the scenes that nearly put me into a coma (except when Gunton creepily compliments Meyer’s good looks), and a commentary by Morneau and Phillips in which they go on and on about how hot/tiring it was in the heat and what not. Riveting.
As these things go, it’s slightly above average. It won’t make you forget Tremors or The Birds, but I’ll take it over Frogs, that’s for damn sure. And bonus points for putting Carlos Jacott in a non-villain role for once.
What say you?
*Yet I went to see Random fucking Hearts.
And now, Horror Movie A Day and Happy Hour Comics would like to present the newest in an ongoing series of HMAD-inspired comic strips. I hope you enjoy!! (Click to enlarge)