Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:30 - Released 10/22/99

Every Halloween season has its share of horror feature releases; this year's offerings include William Malone's The House On Haunted Hill, scheduled to hit theatres this Friday, and Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow (Nov. 19). But if you desperately want to part with several dollars and are in the mood for a stupid premise and laughable special effects, then you can't do much better than Bats. This lame bit of cinema, written by John Logan and directed by Louis Morneau, features a horde of carnivorous flying beasties that appear in a small Texas town during the dimly lit hours and terrorize a number of dimly lit characters.

Like Jaws and Deep Blue Sea did for sharks, and Raiders Of The Lost Ark did for spiders and snakes, Bats takes one of our much-maligned fellow creatures and maligns them further, parlaying people's irrational fears into box office receipts. But don't worry, bat friends: this flick is so badly produced and its effects so incredibly unconvincing that no adult in his right mind could ever take it seriously. A few well-placed tweaks to the script and Bats could have been marketed as a comedy. But alas, the producers failed to see that possibility, and what results is a tragic waste of perfectly good celluloid.

Logan's plot is as common as they come. There's an unscrupulous scientist (Bob Gunton) who has produced a handful of — you guessed it — genetically altered bats. No one explains why this would be necessary (the closest we come is the good doctor saying "I'm a scientist; it's what we do!"), but two of these little devils have escaped from the lab and are infecting the entire local bat population in Gallup, Texas, with their ravenous bloodlust. These guys look like miniature pit bulls with wings, and though they would probably meet much less resistance if they attacked, say, unsuspecting livestock, they apparently only like to dine on human beings.

So the town's sheriff (Lou Diamond Phillips, still desperately seeking success) enlists a bat specialist (Dina Meyer, Starship Troopers) and her goofy sidekick (León, Waiting To Exhale) to fix the problem. Before it's done, there's plenty of gore, scenes of people fighting with what appears to be an army of broken umbrellas, and piles of rubbery-skinned novelty bats (I think I saw the words "Made in China" on one) in a wiggling match with horrified-looking prostrate student actors. Not horrified because of the bats, mind you, but because their faces might actually be recognizable at some point during the film. Among the more laughable script elements are a bat scientist who is afraid of bats (even regular ones), a doctor who gets woozy at the sight of blood, and the continent of Antarctica being referred to as "up there."

It's not often one gets the chance to see a movie as incredibly bad as Bats. So treat yourself to a quality cinematic experience. Go to the theatre and see anything else that's playing. *

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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