Rating -

Horror (US); 1999; Rated PG-13; 90 Minutes

Lou Diamond Phillips: Emmett Kimsey
Dina Meyer: Sheila Casper León: Jimmy
Carlos Jacott: Hodge
Bob Gunton: McCabe

Produced by Brent Baum, Bradley Jenkel, John Logan, Dale Pollock, Louise Rosner and Steven Stabler; Directed by Louis Morneau; Screenwritten by John Logan

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Written by DAVID KEYES

"Bats" is one of the most dreadful pictures of recent memory that I have had the displeasure of sitting through, a film so clumsy and so incoherent that it will likely leave moviegoers screaming for their money back. No person, living or dead, could have possibly explained director Louis Morneau's motivation with this travesty, other than the potential chance that he was trying to cash in on the success of recent successful creature features, like "Deep Blue Sea" and "Lake Placid." Audiences will nonetheless see right through his vision, which is buried in clichés and swarms of mutant-like bats who, at a distance, look like nothing more than inkblots with hidden agendas.

And even for people who are trying to find something nice to say about the movie, "Bats" represents somewhat of a difficult problem. Practically every other scene, which features people screaming as they are swarmed by the winged rodents, is shot with such incredible speed that the images are blurred and completely disoriented. The first scene, for example, shows two teenagers in a car who are suddenly attacked by a host of these creatures. Wings flap, people scream, blood spatters, bats screetch, and a victim is thrown through the windshield--all in less than 15 seconds. The explanation for this? Perhaps the director, Louis Morneu, was hopeful to secure a "PG-13" rating, and as a result, cut the attack scenes up so maliciously that no one in the audience would be able to comprehend the bloodshed.

The story takes place in Texas, when two bats from overseas, enhanced genetically by the government, escape their lab and infect countless other bats with their gift, creating a whole swarm of almost mutant-like flying creatures. Sheila Casper, a zoologist, is requested on scene to help and exterminate these predators before their population grows to uncontrollable numbers. But this insults the nature of her profession--she has never once killed a bat in her life, and doesn't intend to start now.

But the attacks continue. The town is evacuated. There is panic that the bats will move onto the contintental United States in a matter of six months. There is a threat of getting the military involved, unless Sheila, her partner, the sheriff Emmett, and those responsible for this mess, can dispose of the bats within 48 hours. Their plot to destroy them starts at, of all places, the local elementary school, where the four individuals board up windows and tie off doorways with chainlink fencing (all while Opera music is playing in the background). Their ultimate plan is to then freeze the entire colony, which is located in a mine shaft up in the hills. When the army fails to do so, it is left up to Sheila and her pals to do it themselves, before the military decides to retort by setting off bombs in the mine, enabling all of the predators to scatter.

Do we care about any of this? Not in the least. Aside from jumbled photography and silly approach, the core problem with "Bats" is the lack of depth and thought put into the mechanics of the script. Instead of approaching the material from a realistic point of view, it resorts to ripping off tiresome clichés, which weren't all that realistic in the first place. The idea that such creatures can only come from overseas (as seen by the alligator in "Lake Placid") is ludicrous. Furthermore, we cannot buy into the fact that the government is willing to genetically enhance the mind span of these bats (although that was one of the decent details explored in "Deep Blue Sea"). One of the most idiotic scenes, perhaps, takes place after a bat is captured. The authorities plant a bug in the back of his neck, and set him free, in hopes that he will reveal the location of their hideout. So what happens afterwards? Two other bats gang up on him and kill him.

As bats made of special effects, these little suckers look cheap and obvious from beginning to end. Yet the script makes them out to be invincible and strong, able to accomplish any feat. There is an instance when one bat manages to throw a guy off of his own bike, and another when a few dozen invade a bar and corner a cop. Imagine my reaction when that police officer, surrounded by the flying rodents, waves his gun at them and demands that they "stay back!"

© 1999, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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