Bats (1999) / Horror-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for gore and language
Running Time: 91 min.
Cast: Lou Diamond Phillips, Dina Meyer, Bob Gunton, Leon, Carlos Jacott
Director: Louis Morneau
Screenplay: John Logan
Review published October 24, 1999
The plot: A biological experiment on some bats in Texas ends up going awry when the genetically enhanced bats begin to breed, threatening the lives of everyone in North America. A bat specialist (Meyer, Dragonheart), her assistant (Leon, Cliffhanger), and the local sheriff (Phillips, The Big Hit) have 48 hours to put a stop to the madness before the military moves in and takes drastic measures.
Whether there was an attempt to make an updated version of Hitchcock's classic The Birds, or merely a sincere try at a dumb but fun popcorn movie, Bats fails miserably by every account. The main failure stems from the fact that it actually makes the fatal mistake of taking itself seriously, rather than go for campy humor and in-jokes, a la Tremors.
Curiously, they cast the youngish (and Filipino) Lou Diamond Phillips as a stereotypical Texas sheriff, which defies the imagination. I know they thought since Phillips works cheap and is a recognizable name, it might increase exposure, but I don't think they realize that no one outside of his immediate family would go see a movie due to his appearance in it, and in fact many people will likely stay away.
The most one would reasonably expect is for Bats to be "so bad it's good", but alas, it's just bad. Instead of being funny, director Morneau (Retroactive, The Hitcher II) goes for horror, which makes it all the worse since it's not scary in the slightest, eliciting more chuckles than screams from any audience that's unfortunate enough to be viewing it. The bats are phony looking muppets that increase and decrease in size as the situation calls for it. It gets tedious very quickly, and the only entertainment to really be had is to name all of the films Bats rips off liberally.
I would gladly take a dip in a pool full of guano than sit through this mind-numbingly stupid and unoriginal waste of celluloid again.
©1999 Vince Leo