Halloween Endurance Test: BATS (1999)

We’ll start this year’s Halloween Endurance Test with a bona-fide B-movie. Not a classic B-movie (Them!, the Wasp Woman, Pumpkinhead, etc.), but one of the cusp of infamy. Not Z-movie bad though, probably along the lines of E- or F-movie status.

The plot is one we’ve seen before: mainly Outbreak, redone for the horror set. Gone are the disease-carrying monkeys, now we have giant (fox sized) diseased bats. Less emphasis on the disease (or spread of disease) here, more on fighting flying rats.

Which is something the movie fails to do well. Watching people roll on the ground wrestling with bats immediately brings to mind Bela Lugosi wrestling with the octopus in Bride of the Monster. Only somehow less effective here.

The film’s sci-fi aspects are highly touted on the box, though what we learn is of questionable veracity. Bats often thought of as blind, can actually see! In some sort of cheap, infrared-lite, Predator-esque way. (Perhaps that’s a disease side-effect they forgot to mention.)

Gripes aside, the film does have some things going for it. First, it doesn’t aspire to be anything higher then what it is. A cheapie meant to be an impulse rent or buy. (Which is exactly how it came to me.) Second, it borrows from all the right places.

Bats‘ creators claim its inspiration came from Hitchcock’s The Birds, though, as I said above, it clearly was Outbreak. In an inspired twist, the mad scientist behind the bats is also a government official! Tying in some residual X-Files conspiracy theory-anti-government sentiments in the process.

Finally, it has comic relief courtesy of a Wayan Brothers stand-in. One can’t overstate that with just $10,000 more in the budget, a Wayans would’ve been in it. How he’s related to the plot, I’ll never know. He’s not a scientist, though he does have a connection to bats; if only because he’s always wearing a t-shirt with a bat skeleton on it. My guess is they needed someone to shout the film’s best line: “Christ in a sidecar!?!”


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