With the approach of Halloween comes the usual slew of “fright” films to allure audiences to the theaters. Among the horde is BATS, a story about a small Texas town at the mercy of killer bats that must be defeated by a zoologist, her assistant and the town’s sheriff.
Dina Meyer (of JOHNNY MNEMONIC and DRAGONHEART) stars as Dr. Sheila Casper, a zoologist who specializes in bat species. She and her assistant Jimmy (played by Leon who also starred in COOL RUNNINGS) are summoned to Gallup, Texas, a small town under the attack of some genetically altered bats. At first, Sheila is unwilling to believe that bats could behave in ways contrary to science, but after seeing two mangled corpses from an attack, she realizes the bats are unlike any others she has studied. With the help of the town’s sheriff, Emmett Kimsey, played by Lou Diamond Phillips (of LA BAMBA and COURAGE UNDER FIRE), they try to stop the bats before they spread and attack further.
The scientist responsible for the alteration of the bats, Dr. McCabe, is discovered to have not only injected them with a virus, but to have trained them to be predatory as well. He stays near the suspicious trio and pretends to be interested only in the preservation of the unique bat species, but his lab creations soon turn on him. When he calls the bats to attack the others, he only gets attacked himself.
As the body count increases with a full-fledged attack on the town, the military gets involved and intends to use a full arsenal assault on the bats. They bring in a huge freezing unit to freeze the bats inside their hideout, an abandoned mine. Disregarding the fact that bats are nocturnal, the plan to freeze them is carried out by the troops during the night, resulting in the bats’ destruction of the camp.
With Plan A foiled, the sheriff and Sheila decide to venture into the bat dwelling where the freezing unit has been placed to turn on the machine, thus freezing the bats to death. While Jimmy monitors their progress outside, the two must get through massive amounts of bat droppings and danger in order to save the day.
The heroine describes the scientific alteration of the bats as the “destruction of millions of years of evolution,” thus shunning God as the Creator. The movie’s violent bat attacks, whether depicted or implied, are quite frequent and similar to THE BIRDS, an older Alfred Hitchcock film. The depiction of a male character being attacked by a bat in a diner is ironic in that a young boy, about ten feet away from him, is so involved playing a video game of pretend violence that he doesn’t realize what is happening. As for the bats themselves, the larger groups depicted were convincing, but the close-up shots were more reminiscent of the “gremlins” from GREMLINS than they were of actual bats.
The story line here is predictable, with plenty of corny one-liners. Like other movies in its genre, BATS is comprised of R-rated language and violence, but thankfully contains no sex or nudity. The latter added to the movie’s suspense because was so much is happening around the characters, yet a genuine caring between them is evident. Typically, horror movies are created with a low budget for a specific audience – with the expectation of yielding high returns. It remains to be seen, however, whether BATS can hang, or rather, fly with other movies in its category.
Evolutionary worldview with references to "millions of years of evolution," science breeds bats to be intelligent & implied communication with bats by scientist; 27 obscenities & at least 12 profanities; strong violence including bats attack car, corpse thrust through windshield, brief shot of graphic photographs of victims, graphic scene depicting 2 corpses in a morgue, mutilated corpse over fence, numerous attacks by bats on people, 2 bats mutilate another bat, man punches man, town is attacked by bats, implied bat attack on infant, woman & man; no sex; no nudity; alcohol use; smoking; and, scientist has desire to use bats for implied destruction of the world.