Saturday, March 22, 2014



I am continuing on my diet of complete mind candy after finishing Wolfgang Puck’s consommé and crème brulee that Nurse Tameka was so kind to fetch. I am now coughing deeply into Kleenex, fighting off febrile moments, and ready to report on my third flick of the day, Bats . Norman finally drank his Seconal laced martini and is snoring away on the couch so I can enjoy my misery in relative peace and quiet. I was getting just a little tired of Anne Murray’s greatest hits in his flat baritone.

Bats is a formula film, pure and simple. It's been made a hundred times before. In all of these movies, a species has been altered by a mad scientist (in this case an eye-rolling Bob Gunton) and is now preying on humankind instead of its usual diet. This allows the filmmakers to place a cast of stock characters in jeopardy while the audience tries to figure out who's going to be eaten next. Ultimately, the heroic clichés, masquerading as characters, figure out a way to destroy the menace and the balance of nature is restored.

The walking, talking caricatures in this film include the town sheriff (obviously the hero as it's Lou Diamond Phillips, the only marquee name), his somewhat doofus deputy (he's toast), the plucky female biologist/love interest (Dina Meyer), her comic relief sidekick (Leon), a swaggering lady mayor, the aforementioned mad scientist, the basically decent government official (another obvious bat meal), and assorted townspeople of Gallup, Texas (disposable stunt people). All plot developments are telegraphed a couple of miles away and the script seems to have been used before, only someone used 'word replace' on their word processor to insert 'bat' instead of 'snake/tarantula/scorpion/leech/okapi/take your pick'.

There is, however, some style in the film making which keeps the movie from being a total loss. There are lots and lots of visual homages. The bat charge on the small town is straight out of The Birds (including the heroine taking refuge in a small glass ticket booth that directly evokes Tippi Hedren in the phone booth). Some bat attack sequences in a small town bar are highly reminiscent of Gremlins and I half expected Phoebe Cates to pour them a beer. There are nods to Dracula ,Raiders of the Lost Ark and even Alien here as well. The director, Louis Morneau, is obviously capable and here's hoping he someday is given better material. One or two shots are actually quite memorable and induce that special little frisson that a good horror film should, one with a cloud of bats ascending over a butte and a second making use of lots of little bat eyes.

The bats themselves are a little disappointing. They should be frightening, but in close up, they look like silicon and rubber novelty gargoyles. They'd be much scarier if we never got a good look at them. Scenes of direct bat attack become almost comic, rather than scary when we see too much of the obviously fake little critters.

I can't recommend this one except as mind candy for febrile illness days.

'What have we done?' speeches. Spelunking. Guano lakes. Exploding marquees. Teenage day players as bat food. Gratuitous evil military subplot. Gratuitous baby in danger. Barricaded school house. Gratuitous bel canto aria.

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