Those Crazy Bats!
There’s a big problem in Texas. It seems a couple of experimental bats have gotten free from their laboratory home and infected a flock of local bats with their strain of bloodlust. They are on their way to Gallup, where Sheriff Kimsey (Lou Diamond Phillips) is joined by bat scientist Dr. Sheila Casper (Dina Meyer) and her trusty sidekick Jimmy (Leon). They are immediately attacked by a group of wild bats and nearly killed and soon the town of Gallup in engulfed. They manage to stave off the assault until the bats get their fill and fly off, leaving a lot of people dead in their wake. The military is called in and this is where we discover that yes, these two escaped bats were a weapon’s experiment gone wrong. Through foolish machinations, the Army tries to assault the mines on the edge of town, where Dr. Casper and Sheriff Kimsey believe the bats are roosting, only to get slaughtered. Now an air strike has been ordered and the town and surrounding areas are going to be destroyed. The populace has been evacuated, but Sheriff Kimsey wants to preserve their homes, so he and Dr. Caspar and Jimmy concoct a way to kill the bats in their hiding place and save all the destruction. This plan, of course, entails them going right into the heart of the roost…
Bats is quite a thrill ride, a movie that never really lets up, the action and killing continuing at a good clip throughout. From the opening sequence, which plays like a loving homage to slasher films, up until its explosive climax, there is never a dull moment. I first saw this on VHS back when it was released in the late 90s. I seem to remember it having a brief theatrical run but I don’t think many people (including me) saw it there. I remember it being pretty good, if a little cheesy, and decided to revisit it lo these twenty-something years later. It holds up. Bats is very much a product of its era, featuring the kind of characters that have charm and instant camaraderie, echoing films like Twister and Deep Rising and much in line with its then-contemporary nature-gone-amok family of films like Deep Blue Sea and Lake Placid. A band of plucky heroes that all have jokes ride in to save the day, despite ignorant, outside influences. The best part of the film is the bats themselves, as Greg Nicotero and crew really crafted some fabulous-looking creatures, and the CGI is actually warm and holds up quite nicely. The attacks are bloody and unrelenting and people die, in great numbers. While not a perfect film, it’s a cool little B-movie that knows what it is and embraces itself. You can’t really ask for much more.
This would make a great double-feature with Lake Placid, this one playing second on the bill, because it doesn’t have the star power or the glossiness, but it ups the blood and the carnage. Bats is the kind of film that can work as comfort food; you know what you’re getting, it’s easy to digest, and yeah it’s a little fatty and probably not too good for you, but who cares? It tastes good and goes down just right. So go fill your belly with this little nature-in-revolt movie and have a good time.