It says "Bats" -- You're just gonna have to take my word for it

Director: Louis Morneau

USA - 1999

  Hoff! Hoff! 


I have to admit, I’ve long had a fascination with bats. Sure, everybody hears scary stories about them, all the myths like how bats get caught in your hair or that they carry rabies. Well, they might carry rabies, but no more so than any other wild animal. But they were mammals that flew, and there are few enough of them, they always were interesting.

Eventually, I believe through the influence of Batman, I came to learn a bit more "The hat, the oversized belt buckle, the Wranglers, my patented swagger - I'm from Texas, ya know."about bats. Most eat insects, the rest tend to eat fruit. They’re very susceptible to toxins in the environment, and as a result, many species are endangered (sorry, Mr. Wayne, they’re not as great survivors as you might think). Echolocation takes care of avoiding hair, or anything else that’s not food, for that matter. They’re always flying around in the zoo, one of the few animals that seem to be active most of the time you go by their displays, which is a point in their favor.

I’ve even seen wild bats on the few times I’ve been spelunking in natural caves, little tiny ones clinging to the rock walls, bleary-eyed with sleep but wakened by our flashlights. They were so tiny and cute, it was impossible to hold on to any residual fear. Not that I had any by that point, but some of my companions at the time didn’t share my affection for the debunking of popular childhood misconceptions, and the tiny bats won them over.

Bats are intelligent (a researcher taught some wild jungle bats to come to him when he whistled and eat fruit from his hand, all within a few hours), helpful (they eat pounds of insects, each night; specific intake varies by weight of bat, of course), and useful (vampire bat saliva is being studied for use as an anticoagulant). Even their guano is valuable, to the right industries.

But, of course, they’re still relatively grotesque, compared to many other animals, so they get cast as the heavy in movies even today.

I can recall movie about vampire bat colonies moving up into the USThe Resident Batologist; perfectly wretched little rubber bats threatening some female bat-ologist and that guy from the Stingray TV show, Nick Mancuso. Ah, yes: Nightwing, 1979, directed by Arthur Hiller. Hardly a pro-bat movie, but at least they had some screen time, even if they were incredibly weakly represented.

Now, vampire bats are very misunderstood in the first place. Local Chicago musician Chris Ligon, in his song Crazy Vampire Bats, wrote the lyrics:

…They are a small bat, they do not suck blood,

Rather, they bite their victims and then they lick up the blood

Coming from the / the gaping wound / the gaping wound

And they don’t drink all / that much blood

They might be able to drain a mouse or small bird

But a human might not even know he or she had been attacked

It would take several visits from the vampire bat

To take as much blood / as the Red Cross takes during a blood donation…

Yes, I know it doesn’t fit into normal lyrical patterns very well. That’s part of what makes the song so fun.

Regardless of the facts, vampirInsert "You've Got Mail" joke heree bats are basically given the short end of the stick in nearly every instance. In the aforementioned movie, they were handled as if they were the ultimate evil. I think they even tried to work a Native American curse into it somewhere, as well. You know how the early eighties were into that mysticism angle. Anyway, when I first heard of the movie Bats, I wondered if it would be just as unfair, or if it would manage to employ some actual factual information about our flapping furry friends.

The answer is yes it does, but that doesn’t really help.

The opening and closing are letterboxed, which I think is a very good thing. More and more people are learning to appreciate the wide screen view. However, somewhere in the midst of the body of the movie, it flips back to full-screen, or pan-and-scan. What the heck? That’s unfair, pulling a switch on me. If I know what to expect, one or the other, I can enjoy, but it kind of throws me to realize that something has changed… detracts from the whole movie experience. Yeah, yeah, being picky, I know, but still…

They have a Director, Louis Morenau, and a Director of Photography, George Moordian. I used to think the two jobs were for a single person, and when I found out they weren’t, I thought they should be. I mean, shouldn’t a director control the flow of the image as closely as the performance of the actors? Not that I’m adverse to giving more people more work in Hollywood, if it’s done smartly. But then, as events unfold, I find Mr. Moordian’s involvement, if he was the one making the visual choices in the final edit, to be a mixed blessing.

I mean, on the one hand, he gives us a very slick moon rising, with curling clouds racing by. It’s a fairly cool shot, well done in the wide screen presentation. We focus on a car going through scrub, under train tracks, and parking. If the terrain didn’t tell us it was the American Southwest, the young couple in the car will. Not only is the boy wearing a godawful cowboy shirt, they’re all down-home Texas"Did someone order the pepper steak?" bickering about some girl the boy’s been running around with. By now we have enough clues to know these are our pre-credits sacrificial victims, done in just to show that the monster (or monsters) is serious. They settle in with a couple of beers as shadows flash by… before you can say "what was that?" something smashes into their windshield! Another starts ripping open the ragtop. Kids screaming, ugly winged things screeching, it’s all very chaotic, and to top it off, the attack is timed so that a train is passing overhead, concealing all with its noise and flashing lights.

Returning to Moordian, if he’s to blame, the other hand includes the headache-inducing blur of rapid cuts, camera-shaking, and close-ups. Don’t get me wrong, this early in the film it fits, in order to keep us from getting too good a look at the bat puppets. Problem is, even after we’ve seen the monsters, that seems to be the style of choice. Sure, it lends a sense of motion and urgency, but it also encourages headaches. It’s not as bad as Blair Witch Project, but then, what would be?

And now I want to critique the battle tactics of the bats. Given the name of the movie, we know the "We must save the bats - for SCIENCE!"monsters are bats. One of the first things we find out, once we get briefed on the situation, is that they’re super-intelligent (for bats). Even a bat will know not to try to head-butt its way through a glass windshield, however. I can understand if it was a distraction tactic, but once the other one started coming in (successfully) through the roof, I would have thought the distraction would have been served. So rather than continue to force your way through the splintering glass, wouldn’t it have been smarter to hop up and go through the roof, as well? Okay, so maybe they’re not as smart as all that, then. But still…

With our initial murders out of the way, we are now allowed to introduce our leads.

We cut to a mesa in Skull Valley, Arizona. Why do people live in places like this? Or call them such things? I mean, if people die in the valley repeatedly, that earns the name Death Valley. But unless you uncover a pyramid of skulls mysteriously built by ancient tribesmen, don’t bother with Skull Valley. Alternately, it could be that morbid humor working. Skull Valley is right next to Lonesome Boneyard and down the road a piece from Angry Suicide.

A spelunking Dr. Sheila Casper (Dina Meyer) is talking on her headset radio to her assistant, Jimmy Sands (León), while she explores this particular bat roost. After Johnny Mnemonic, Starship Troopers, Dragonheart, and all the other things I’ve seen her in, I’m filled with foreboding at the sight of her surrounded by blank rock, transmitting her performance over walkie-talkie. Reminds me of Secret Agent Man, and she’s too good for that.

For the record, she was completely up to par with the rest of the movie, as she always is. I never doubted for a moment that she was being mortally threatened by bat puppets and CGI effects.

Aww, cute bats! The bats she’s playing with right now areReal bat? Fake bat? You make the call! the kind that I’ve seen myself, and they’re the farthest thing from harmful that you can imagine. Dr. Dina seems to think so, too, although we find out Jimmy hates bats. The bat research assistant who hates bats? What the hell is he doing there? Turns out his interest is more theoretical than practical, so he’s paying his dues before he can retire to a classroom or something like that. I would imagine that chiropterologists (what I think is the term for bat scientists) are in high demand in schools like… um… Transylvania College?

Hey, I never promised to lay off the vampire jokes. You are now warned.

Their investigation of a bat roost is interrupted by the arrival of a rude helicopter bearing a typical US Gummint suit-type, with bad hair. He’s a CDC ("The Center for Disease Control?" Jimmy asks, just in case we missed Outbreak, X-Files, etc. ad nauseum) guy by the name of Dr. Tobe Hodge (Carlos Jacott), and basically tells them they’re needed in Texas and they’re coming with him. When there’s bat killings and the Feds are involved, you know it can’t be good.

After a travel montage, we meet Sheriff Emmett Kimsey (Lou Diamond Phillips, and the IMDB claims it's "Kimsey," instead of "Kinsey," which sounds more natural, but what do I know from Texas? I mean, really) as he arrives at the airport near his town. Kimsey is properly weathered and soft-spoken; Phillips does a decent job with the somewhat arbitrary character he’s given (the character has dimension, but it’s kind of shoe-horned in there awkwardly). I wonder why I see a "bat" moon rising. (Sorry.)he hasn’t been in as much lately? Back in the Young Guns days, he was burning up the screen. Then he seemed to get all ego-y, and then art-y, and then dropped out of sight for a while. Still, he’s a man who knows his craft.

We go immediately to the autopsy. Nothing like a little flash of gore to keep us in the modern monster movie mood. Turns out Dr. Dina is able to handle it; I guess she’s not limited to bats, she can handle larger beasts as well. She spots a claw in the depths of the chewed-out abdomen, grabs it with tweezers, identifies it by arm’s-length eyeballing, and says it as a fruit bat. But that’s impossible, of course; fruit bats only eat fruit. That’s why they’re called fruit bats. ("Burrow owls live in burrows in the ground! Why do you think they call them Burrow Owls!" Sorry, I had a Dead Milkmen moment there…)

Turns out there have been a number of animal attacks, but just recently went to humans. This does not correct the problem with Burrow Bats… er… Fruit Owls… these critters, which is simply that they shouldn’t be doing this. Dr. Dina is very good at stating the truth about bats: they do not kill people. Period. Right on, woman! And nobody even brought vampire bats into it. Which is surprising; you’d think vampire bats would be the first choice, as they are the only ones that are naturally the least bit carnivorous.

The Creepy Scientist Guy With A Hidden Agenda (real name Dr. Alexander McCabe, played by Bob Gunton, hereafter referred to merely by his easy-to-remember acronym, CSGWAHA) (and yes, he’s that easy to define, practically from first sight) identifies them as lab bats he worked on. Indonesian flying foxes, actually, an endangered species, which are one of the largest species of bat in the world. Turns out they were the subjects of bad gummint mojo, some virus-based research. It’s the kind of thing that causes this behavior, and can also spread to other bats. As yet, no danger of human infection (so no need to call Dustin Hoffman, or compare these bats to flying monkeys… unless we want to, of course, and damn it, who wouldn’t?)

After it’s proven that the sacrificial kids were no mere fluke (and CSGWAHA and CDC-Boy act all secretive), Kimsey is interested in letting everybody know of the danger, but still keeping them from panicking. Naturally, nobody wants panic, but at least this Sheriff is willing to close the beaches right away. Better handling than Jaws, but then again, Kimsey’s probably seen that movie, and saw how well that worked.

We find out a little about what we’re dealing with. CSGWAHA has used the virus to increase intelligence and teamwork abilities, aggressiveness, and range of feeding, making the bats omnivorous. Intelligent, aggressive animals, capable of working together and of killing people. Hmm…

"But why would you do that?"

"Because I’m a scientist. That’s what we do. We make everything a little better. Bigger livestock, better crop yields…"

I’m sorry, CSGWAHA, I must inform you that you are a liar, yes, a liar, and your pants are on fire. Given the qualities you engineered, I cannot see how this kind of bat development is better for anyone but the military. Did you know that back in the ‘80s, there was a project designed to train bats to carry incendiary devicesA Meeting of the Hats into enemy camps? Bounced around from branch to branch, Army to Air Force… finally got killed, after costing millions and not producing a damn thing… at least, I think it got killed… Hopefully not literally, in the case of the poor test bats. Anyway, this kind of project, in the film, smacks of exactly that kind of military thinking. I hate to paraphrase Jurassic Park of all things, but you’re just courting trouble when you try to mess with Nature. And look where it got you.

Our down-home wisdom comes from our token minority, Jimmy. "I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t like anything moving higher up the food chain than me. Period." They’re awfully fond of verbalizing their punctuation in this movie. "Let’s get out of here! Exclamation!"

This whole expository section is filled with superfluous cuts, zooms, and pans. Trying to give action to the scene, no doubt. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned, this kind of camera action is fairly typical for Bats. If it doesn’t jump around every damn second, it’s just not interesting. Or so goes the official view. Personally, I blame MTV, but then again, who doesn’t? Still, soon we’re back into action, out in the country doing something useful. There’s nothing like a good montage scene to move things along.

After the nets are set up to catch the bats as they try and leave their roost, there’s more exposition, dealing with Dr. Dina’s background, how she got to be a "Excuse me, is this seat taken?"zoologist specializing in chiroptera. It’s decent dialogue, relatively speaking, a credit to writer John Logan for that, at least. I mean, its better than, say, Starship Troopers, or even Secret Agent Man, which Dina should be happy about. They touch on the fact that the bat is good luck in some cultures, and they spend some time talking about how Dr. Dina got interested in bats. She says she can’t bear to think of killing a bat. Well, let’s see how long that lasts. This is a bats-as-monsters movie, and those who are unwilling to kill the monsters in these kinds of situations tend to have abbreviated screen times. Considering she’s one of the big names in the movie, I don’t forsee her being Bat Chow soon, but if she does go down, I hope it’ll be as amusing as Samuel L. Jackson’s ending in Deep Blue Sea. In that movie, the sharks never gave anybody a chance to drown. In this film the bats won’t give anyone a chance to… um… fly? Walk around in the dark? Echolocate? Well, perhaps it’s not a direct comparison.

Here’s a confusing point. Dr. Dina is a bat expert, who can identify the genus of a lost claw by sight at arm’s length. Considering bats tend to be fairly messy in their roosts, and guano tends to produce ammonia (something they mention later), you’d think she’d be able to tell how large the swarm is. (Is that the proper term? A murder of crows, a swarm of bees, a something of bats..) Instead, when her little sensor unit starts blinking, she realizes there are too many bats, and starts running for the car. So basically, we sat through all that setting up of the net for nothing, as it had no impact on the bats, and pretty much just burns some screen time.

I sure hope they don’t make a habit of this.

Dear God, CGI bats have no real perspective. They look like they’re really closer than they’re supposed to be. It’s pretty damn fake, but at least the swarming mass of bats, perspective problems aside, looks reasonable. They attack the truck that Dr. Dina and Kimsey are holed up in, and abruptly turn into puppet bats. The puppets look kind of cute, in a Fright Night sort of way. What, they’re trying to get into the engine? Are these bats or Gremlins? Well, they pulled a spark plug and they figured out how to get in through the AC vents, so I guess they are Gremlins! Gremlins III: Bat Epidemic. Well, the puppets are just as ugly, at least…

Oooh, less than 10 minutes after saying she couldn’t kill a bat, she’s burning one with a cigarette lighter. And Kimsey is shooting bats near her head. You know, in The Killer, that resulted in permanent blindness for the woman whose fa"Yeah..yeah, that's right. Killer bats. Hey! Why are you laughing?!"ce was near the firing gun. But it’s like the back-blast from the bazooka in Rambo: First Blood Part 2; it’s not even considered.

So, this virus has the effect of Africanizing the bats, giving them a kind of hive mind, even moreso than they already seem to have. When Jimmy and the deputy roll up to try to help, hundreds of glowing eyes all turn to look at the new car. I have to admit, that’s pretty damn creepy… and cool. They’re playing all their spooky swarm movie conventions pretty well, and as long as you don’t have perspective problems the CGI works pretty well.

Once the main body of bats disappears, they find one left, and with an inappropriately scored putting-bat-in-cage sequence, they capture it. Wow, that grabbing hold of the bat and sticking it into the wire cage was nearly heart-stopping! But at least now they have a cute bat puppet with a plug-ugly pug nose. Real bats aren’t that slobbery and rubbery; they’re actually quite sleek, in their way, even if they are sometimes grotesque. Of course, you can only do so much with puppets, and it seems most of the budget went into movement controls. They do move pretty well in some scenes, so you can kind of forgive the execution of the puppet.

Oh, but now we see the original test subjects, on a nearby roof… they could very well be Dracula, for that matter, though they are unusually brightly lit for bats.

They put a tracking dGreat, call in the Army. That always works..evice on the captured bat… injecting it? Stapling it on? Don’t they usually put a tag on their ankles or something? Do they have to inject it in the small of their backs? Does it hamper a bat’s aerodynamics to have a blinking red metal thing sticking out of its back? Aren’t there vital flying muscles in the back that are being pierced by the retaining pin on the tracking device? Well, it doesn’t really matter: the big ‘uns recognize the beacon, and take the bat out in mid-air. Not only are they smart and accurate, they’re flying Ninja bats, able to slice up a bat into so much sushi. No, that would be a flying fish, not a bat. Sorry.

After that, they realize the town is in danger. The film obligingly starts setting up the danger… showing us a woman taking in the laundry, a sleeping rubber baby doll, people in a diner… and then setting up tension with flashes of motion, odd noises, and puppets in vaguely threatening positions. At least they don’t have a Spring-loaded Cat, as they say over on the Jabootu page… why bother with the fake out when you can just slam them with the real bat, you know? Real being a relative term.

Personally, I have two favorites: the bat hanging off the clothes-line, and the bat crawling up the bar to look at the man’s food before launching at his face. And the kid playing the arcade game doesn’t have a clue. Unlike the convenience store clerk in Grosse Pointe Blank, he doesn’t have an excuse like overlyResident Baby in Peril loud earphones; no, he’s just stupid, as a grown man’s dying screams can cut through the noise of just about any video game or TV program. From one who knows, my friends...

Our heroes reach the town, to find that all the warnings they gave, all the time they spent stressing about panicking the people, was wasted. The town is all going about their business as normal. Apparently, closing the beaches won’t work if the residents enjoy shark-bating. Or whatever the bat equivalent is. Dr. Dina now demonstrates her super powers, because like Daredevil, she can hear the bat’s sonar, the echolocation. Nobody else seems to, but soon they don’t have to, as the bats swarm down to the supersonic strains of "Ride of the Valkyries." Well, not really, but I could swear I heard a

"Death from Above" on helium. Well, not really.

Okay, I know there’s lots of bats flying around, but to put it bluntly, bats don’t run into things. Sure, you could say that because they’re more aggressive, they might slam into people as kind of an attack, but their bones are hollow; it would do as much damage to them as it would to the human. Unless the virus has been reinforcing their skeletal systems, in which case old CSGWAHA should really have mentioned it. They hit people, power lines… maybe they’re filled with self-loathing, for having been turned into slobbering rubber monstrosities? I know I would be.

There’s so "Run Lou! It's a mad horde of your adoring fans!"  " Wha?! Really?!"   "Nah, I'm kidding. They're bats."much here in this section, I’m only going to point out three things.

Number one, it seems that omnivorous aggressive bats like to stalk their prey. Never mind that they don’t have much species experience of it, and those that hunt usually do so by swooping and snatching their insect prey out of the air. Blitzkrieg, death-from-above attacks are their specialty, but these boys like to crawl up on their prey, apparently enjoying the fear and panic that they cause. Must be the virus. Incidentally, we get a glimpse of Batcam during this period, which apparently is just a squashed, distorted filter over a regular Point of View shot. The POV shot is, of course, a tradition, showing where the monsters are by showing us how they view their targets.

Number two, it is now officially impossible for Hollywood to create a movie action scene without explosions. In a place where the monsters are smallish flying mammals, they still manufacture excuses for transformers to blow up, easily exploded cars to smash into buildings and other cars, various fuel containers, and such to catch fire. Viva Hollywood!

Number three, Kimsey is an incredible shot! He’s in the middle of a street blowing up, and people screaming and attacked by bats from all angles. He’s got an automatic, I’m not good enough on guns to identify it, but it seems smaller than a .45, possibly a Beretta or something. His targets are zippy, flappy, tiny, basically very hard to hit, but every bullet he fires turns a bat into a fine red mist. But he can’t hit either of the big monster original bats, literally to save his life. I guess they operate under the Mooks to Level Boss rule; you can wade through the common thugs easily, but the big baddie is going to be unkillable, even invulnerable, until the final reel.

The bat puppets are unavoidably cute, though, in a bulldog, E.T. kinResident Odious Comic Reliefd of way. Rather of spoils the fear factor.

The whole Batcam technique is kind of annoying. While I approve of POV shots, there has to be a better way to swing it than this, especially as we’re dealing with an animal that does not use sight as a primary sense. Perhaps that’s the reasoning behind the distortion, but it’s not enough. They could have gone the Predator route, and given us an unusual way of viewing it, instead of just a distorted shot, but I suppose they blew their effects budget on the flying things.

The only cheesecake we get is when Dr. Dina has to shuck her jacket and get down to a tank-top while hiding in the theater ticket booth. Admittedly, it’s not that kind of exploitation flick, and Dina has plenty of other assets besides her looks. Still, a guy can dream…

Aw, man. Cliché city. Even the screaming "No!" with the outstretched hand… and then everything stops. What, that was the signal to stop the bat attack? Who knew?

We are now about 45 minutes into a 90 minute movie. The bats have been introduced, the town has been decimated, huge chunks of the population are dead… and Dr. Dina has formed an emotional connection with this supporting character none of us really know, and none of us really liked. Time to call in the Army and get this bat-fry underway! By the way, all these bat scratches and bites, and nobody suggests a rabies series?

I must note that it seems very Snake Plissken-esque of Dr. Dina, to pick up a discarded chair and just sit down on the street while they’re thinking over their next move.

Okay, so they callEven bats get a little edgy when they wander down the feminine hygiene aisle in the military to handle it. The military gives them a time limit to handle it themselves. They then get our heroes access to spy satellite technology. Then they say they want to be as hands-off about this as possible. I really don’t know what to make of all that.

They go and hole up in a school building. Personally, I would have thought something with very few windows would have been better, though I can’t argue with the thick walls, nor the computer access. D.J. Sheriff Fresh Kimsey puts on some old records for working music, and we shift to the preparation montage. For this kind of thing, I’m used to hearing heavy metal, or at the very least, the A-Team theme. Instead, it’s opera. I like it; at least they’re trying to be different.

So they fortify the school, and get ready. The crew is Dr. Dina, Kimsey, Jimmy, and CSGWAHA. Why keep him along? Well, he volunteered. Of course, when things got tough, and there was friction between him and the others, he got on his cell phone… why, exactly? Is this really the time to check your voicemail? Or call in to your bosses, "the Sheriff is threatening me. Have him killed, will you?"

So, they’ve walled themselves in, sealed it up so the bats should be kept out, and then they get the idea to freeze the roost, making the bats sleep and then die when they freeze. Wait, they have the idea to go freeze the roost, but only after they’ve fortified themselves? I guess, since they have 48 hours, they focus on surviving the first night, and then doing something the next day. Still it seems out of place.

When they get the call to prepare the big cooling machine, the Army guys are willing to listen to Dr. Dina. But the Creepy Bureaucratic Guy With A Hidden Agenda has the idea to go now. It wasn’t just random research, my friends, it was official military US Gummint bad mojo, weapons development. Typical. If it’s not the Company, it’s the military. So they head off in the darkness to put the There's something almost poetic about seeing Lou up to his chest in guanocooler into the bat homes. Raise your hand if you knew this was a bad idea. Boy, how many soldiers see a CGI bat face lunging toward them as their last sight?

Now we find out that CSGWAHA has flipped. When he was making his cell-phone call, he was calling the Monster bats, the ringleaders. Seems the bats have a really good cellular program, with good roaming charges and unlimited minutes. And it seems he wants everybody else to give up, get killed. Oh, wow, he’s snapped. I do not hesitate to say he’s gone batsh*t. Sorry, I guess that would be, he’s gone guano.

Facts I did not know: bats can chew through chain-link fence. What kind of virus increases bone strength like that while maintaining weight? These guys should be too heavy to fly. We get odd, occasional views from the Batcam… which doesn’t seem to make much sense. They’re just using the distortion filter, even when there’s no bat from the angle. It stops being a POV thing, and just starts getting gratuitous. Further, there’s that Blair Witch shaking again. Gah. I’m getting a headache from watching this. On the up note, Ms. Bat-pacifist has really gotten into it, bashing them with blunt objects, stomping on their heads… the only way she could get more violent would be to bash them to death with her bare hands! Little Dr. Dina, hopping through the forest, picking up the rabid bats…

How hungry are these bats, anyway? They don’t seem to be acting out of hunger, just killing whatever they can find. We were told the bats were more aggressive, and omnivorous. But they’re still basically animals, except for the two ringleaders, right? Well, they ain’t acting like it, let me just say right now.

After much headache-inducing camera work, the bats all fly off. Well, almost all. The two main m"Say, while you got Mapquest up, calculate the driving distance between here and Kentucky for me."onsters are left, and they’re stalking CSGWAHA. Seems he called them there, and they want to kill him, because he’s the only one who knows how to stop them. So naturally he goes off into the open, and lets them. If it weren’t the traditional end of movie mad scientists, I’d give it more notice. Just ask Liz at And You Call Yourself A Scientist!; she’ll tell you all about it. The rest of the night goes quickly, and the next morning, they go to the site of the roost to find the military is planning an air strike.

In there movies, the military never seems to listen to the experts. The only exceptions I can think of would be when there’s some little kid in disturbing short pants who has psychically bonded with a giant monster, but that only seems to occur in Japan. They’ve been told repeatedly that blowing up the entrance to the roost will only cause the bats to scatter, not kill all of them, and then the plague will spread across the country. So: blowing up the cave equals ineffective. That’s why they brought the cooler, so the bats would get frozen as they slept, and would all stay together. Of course, the Army guys all got kilt before they could turn it on. Kind of puts a hitch in the plan, there. But our intrepid heroes are prepared for that. They’re going to turn it on themselves.

So they put on these Abyss helmets, the full-face breathing gear that still allows you to see their expressions. Not necessarily the most practical: I imagine they’d be prone to fogging due to breath and all, but still, a dramatic necessity. With helmet cams a-running, they descend. Jimmy stays above ground, a potential survivor (which would be unusual, as I think Deep Blue Sea is the only movie I’ve seen recently where the minority survived the human buffet…)

As we are all familiar with B-movie monster conventions (and if you’re not, pay attention), we already know what comes next. There’s some kind of showdown between the heroes and the big bats, there’s probably a great deal of tension, and given that Dr. Dina is a sane scientist, there’s probably going to bDisembowellings. Rabies. Electrical outages. What'll these bats get into next?!e something with her outsmarting the bats, perhaps by making a crude cannon out of bamboo, sulfur, charcoal, and some diamonds… No, that’s the Star Trek episode with the Gorn.

You will also note that they make a plan and then basically ignore it, just like they’ve done in the past. Further, there seems to be a shaft of sunlight in the main roost chamber, yet later they say they’ve sealed it, but then they cut back and there’s still that shaft of sunlight. Weird, that. Oh, and there’s the typical set up for a possible sequel… watch for it!

One good thing that they did, they didn’t force the two leads into a romantic relationship. I mean, they were attractive people surviving in a tough situation. It’s not the least bit strange that they would have some kind of bond after all that was done, but real romance requires quite a lot more than simple attraction. Simple attraction is great for one-night stands and other temporary liaisons, but if you’re going to build it up as anything more than that, you have to really push to show it, give it a reason to be. They didn’t do that in this film, and if they’d tried to manufacture a romance to go with the action, it would have rung so completely hollow. However, they did a great job and sidestepped that whole issue.

As a B-movie, this is pretty good. The B-movie scale is so much more forgiving than an A-movie scale. It was fun, the effects were generally enjoyable, even with a few difficulties, and there were solid performances throughout. It’s not something I would recommend as indicative of our cultural heritage (except as a negative example), but if y"Well, at least it was "batter" than THE BIG HIT." (Yes, you can shoot me now.)ou just want some amusement for around two hours, this is fine for the job.

The inestimable Hofferator would have done this movie a fine benefit, though. With him a part of the action, Dr. Dina couldn’t help but fall in love, and his lifeguarding skills would have come in handy in the midst of all that guano. Best of all, I’ll bet K.I.T.T. would have come up with a way to jam the poor bats’ echolocation, so that they’d all be helpless. Then you could just walk up and squish ‘em. Much more cost-effective, like the final solution to the Martian Invasion in Mars Attacks. But then again, perhaps that would have made for a dull movie.


These are the times of which to cherish...


Natural? Puppet? Only her hairdresser knows for sure!

Cute/ugly natural bats, as opposed to cute/ugly bat puppets.

- The CSGWAHA, who you just know is going to lose his marbles at the end, practically from his first close-up.

- The gripping put-the-bat-in-the-cage scene.

- TOTAL PANDEMONIUM IN THE STREETS! The bat apocalypse has come! Bow down, petty humans, before the massed legions of the Bat Army! Detroit Rock City! No, wait, that’s the Kiss Army.

- Bat Cam! Dada, dada, dada, dada, Bat Cam! Bat Cam! Bat Cam! Bat Cam!

- Dr. Dina shows cheesecake, or as much as this movie will manage.


"I ain't gettin' in no plane, Hannibal!"

The gearing up to fight bats at the school montage. Only assistance B.A. and Mad Dog could have made it a better montage. Sometimes, I miss Hannibal.

- Enough with the Bat Cam, already.



More explosions than you can shake a stick at. Power lines explode, cars explode, rocks explode, bats explode. "Look, we’re breaking our own rules, better throw in an explosion to distract the audience." Of course it works; I’m an American Male. But still, you notice East Texas is exploding a lot more than usual.

-- Copyright © 2000 by E. Mark Mitchell


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