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Friday, February 7, 2020

Bats (1999)

This is one that I remember seeing during its original theatrical run. In fact, I distinctly remember seeing the trailer and thinking to myself ‘a Lou Diamond Phillips versus killer bats movie. I’m in.’ I loved it back then, but what will a much older me think about it? Might as well pop in the DVD and check it out.

Things start off quickly with a couple hanging out under a bridge doing what young folks do in the dark. A train passes overhead and that stirs up the “neighbors” which by the title you should realize are some killer bats. The action then moves to our resident bat expert, the beautiful Dr. Casper, who is played by Dina Meyer. She is called in by the government to investigate the attack. We find out pretty quickly that they (the government) have been tracking the attacks but that this is the first time the creatures went after people. The local sheriff, played by Lou Diamond Phillips, gets involved and before you know it the town is under siege. The army is called in, some mad scientist stuff happens, and the day is saved. Pretty much in that exact order.

This is a by the numbers monster movie that wastes no time getting to the creatures and doesn’t linger too much on the human characters. It reminds me a lot of the old fifties Sci-Fi movies that I review here at the site. I enjoy those flicks and I enjoyed this one. The plot is very simple and again gets right to the action. The cast is likeable with Phillips and Meyer in the lead roles. Leon does a fine job as some comic relief as he really has all the best lines. Bob Gunton, who most of us probably recognize as the Warden from Shawshank Redemption, makes a wonderful mad scientist. Because of the thin plot a movie like this needs to lean heavily on the cast to sell it and make the audience care about the characters (good or bad) and they do a fine job here.

The puppets look awesome
Of course, if we are going to be honest the real stars of a movie like this are the creatures, here a couple large genetically modified bats that are leading the local bat population and infecting them somehow with their aggressiveness. The swarms are brought to the screen with some admittedly cringeworthy digital effects work. This is bad even by the standards of the late nineties. Where the special effects work shines are when we get the puppet bats interacting with the actors. These look pretty good and their attacks are staged and shot cleverly. No matter how good the effects work is you need a director that can shoot it properly and we get that here. I also didn’t realize until watching the credits that he practical effects work was down by KNB, which goes a long way towards explaining the quality of the work.

Decent story, likeable cast, and good practical effects work are more than enough to make up for any flaws that Bats might have. I keep finding these nineties horror movies that I totally forgot about. I’m going to need to reconsider my opinion that the decade was horrible for genre flicks. I can easily recommend this one for anyone looking for their monster movie fix.


© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

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