Tag Bats

Fangs (2002)

Fangs (2002)

It’s feeding time!

A group of genetically altered bats are freed from a university laboratory and set out to prey upon the population of the small town of Scottsville. It’s up to a local detective and animal control officer to stop them before the big town dance where an unscrupulous local land developer is hoping to attract potential out-of-town investment for his housing development.

 

It is clear that some higher power does not want anyone to make decent films about killer bats. As if Bats wasn’t enough (and its atrocious sequel), Vampire Bats was awful and The Roost opted to focus more on zombies than bats, we get another mediocre ‘monster on the loose’ flick in Fangs. Besides which, have bats ever been scary? Their cinematic representations from the past range from the camp 60s Batman TV series to black and white films with Bela Lugosi and fake plastic bats back in the 30s and 40s. Yes, they are associated with witchcraft and black magic and all of that nonsense. But bats on their own? Heck, even the dreaded ‘vampire’ bats are about as big as our thumbs and attacks on humans are rare, with the creatures preferring pigs and cows for their blood. Even then they don’t kill the creatures they’re leeching from. So quite how bats have got this weird fear factor around them is beyond me. They’re not scary in the slightest.

Fangs seems to have taken this concept to the ultimate degree. Knowing that bats aren’t truly scary, the film proceeds to prove that point at almost every opportunity. The film attempts to infuse some comedy into the mix with predictably poor consequences. The horror suffers from lack of focus and the comedy was probably funny to the writer and his best mates and no one else. Fangs tries to make itself funny with a slew of one-liners being thrown around in an effort to make it family-friendly. The comedy just isn’t funny and, unless they really wanted to go down the spoof route and turn the whole film into a ridiculous charade, then this aspect should have been left well alone. It just dilutes down the horror elements, which were pretty diluted to begin with anyway.

Fangs boils down to the typical ‘monster on the loose but town has to remain open for some big event’ scenario which has plagued practically every monster horror film since Jaws first popularised the idea back in the mid-70s. It’s got the sneaky local businessman who will do anything to make sure that profit comes first. It’s got the resident local expert who helps out and inevitably saves the day. It’s got a female lead that has an antagonistic relationship with the lead male at first but eventually falls in love with him. It’s got plenty of unnecessary non-characters who populate the town and surrounding areas that have “bite me” stapled to their foreheads.

Reliable low budget horror actor Corbin Bernsen stars as the shady businessman Carl Hart and gets to chew plenty of scenery. He’s not given a lot to do as the slimy villain but he’s still one of the best bits of the film and his character isn’t totally overexposed to the audience.

Strangely for a film about killer vampire bats, there is little blood and most of the deaths occur off-screen without even a sniff of seeing some chewed up corpses. Without swearing (though correct me if I’m wrong) and being low key on the violence and aggression (and no nudity either), then I’m sure Fangs would make a great pre-school horror flick for kids not old enough to watch Friday the 13th or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Fans of this type of film have certain expectations when they sit down to watch these films but Fangs pulls the rug out from underneath and delivers nothing exploitative. In fact it delivers nothing of anything in all honesty, ending up a watered-down version of what could have been mildly entertaining if they’d pushed the right buttons.

 

If you think you know what to expect from Fangs, you’re almost right. Loads of clichés get churned out repeatedly and the film runs like clockwork. But there is little gore, little horror and not much fun to be had, which makes it still better than Bats.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Bats: Human Harvest (2007)

Bats: Human Harvest (2007)

Don’t go near the dark

A group of soldiers set off to capture the terrorist Fazul who has escaped into a maze of caves in Afghanistan. Here they encounter a crazed scientist who has been genetically engineering bats and turned them into flesh-eating monsters.

 

I can always understand people wanting to make sequels to massive films. Despite sequels taking a bad rap overall, they are on the whole designed to make money – pure and simple. You can understand people wanting to make sequels to The Terminator, Aliens, Jaws, Spiderman, Transformers, Batman Begins, Die hard, etc, etc. But it’s when people start making sequels to films that suck or that no one has ever heard of – that’s when I start to have problems. Bats: Human Harvest is a sequel to little-known and rather crap Bats. Ring any bells? Didn’t think so. It actually got a cinematic release but it wasn’t any better than these dreadful Sci-Fi Channel flicks and so, shock of all horrors, bombed completely and faded into oblivion.

Bats: Human Harvest has absolutely nothing to do with the original at all. In fact I don’t know what it has to do with anything because the script seems to have been replaced. Instead of the film being set in Afghanistan (and thus that conjures up images of arid deserts, desolate landscapes and dry, mountainous regions) it’s clearly set in the Sci-Fi Channel’s favourite shooting locations of Eastern Europe. That damned forest is the same one I’ve seen in nearly every Sci-Fi Channel creature feature not set in the water (see the Anaconda sequels, Pterodactyl, etc). Apparently the forest is so dense that satellite imagery will not work there and the Russians have been unable to penetrate it. However when you see how sparsely populated with trees the forest actually is, you wonder if the Russians just couldn’t be bothered going there. There’s not enough cover to hide behind, let alone block a satellite. What the synopsis fails to point out is that the film is briefly set in Iraq at the beginning and then the soldiers find out the secret location of the scientist and then head to Russia. I think it was just a futile attempt to ‘cash in’ on the war in Iraq, if ‘cash in’ is the correct term to use.

If you’ve seen one formulaic Sci-Fi Channel original, then you’ve seen them all. Literally the same films with different monsters, it’s not even fun trying to spot the similarities anymore. The action sequences are so routine and devoid of any excitement that they’re not really action sequences. The namely faceless cast just stand there and shoot their guns in the air. Then when the bats attack the cast just frantically wave their hands around as if they were swatting wasps away. The bats were added in post production so it would have been a laugh watching the cast pretend to be attacked during filming. The bats are largely just black blobs on the screen and because there are a lot of them, there’s not a lot of detail on them and the swarms of them are just cartoony.

In fact they’re not really the main focus of the film and serve as more of a diversion with the scientist becoming the major villain of the piece. I hate it even more when human villains become the focus of these creature feature flicks because if I wanted to see humans fighting humans, I’d get a Steven Seagal film. I want to see creatures fighting humans. And I’m sick of seeing these monsters be located in Eastern Europe where soldiers or scientists have to track it down. Whatever happened to them attacking small towns in America like they used to do back in the 50s?

 

A life-sucking sequel to a film no one saw the first time….say hello to Bats: Human Harvest.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Vampire Bats (2005)

Vampire Bats (2005)

It’s feeding time

After her run-in with deadly locusts, former government scientist Maddy Rierdon is now a professor at a small Louisiana college. When a student is found dead with all of the blood drained from him, the authorities are puzzled as to what could have happened. Maddy takes an interest in the case when two of her students are pulled out of her class by the police and accused of knowing something about it. More bodies begin to turn up over the next few days and Maddy finds out that is in fact a form of mutant bat that has been killing people and animals. But there’s not just one of them, there’s hundreds of them and they’re hungry.

 

Apparently this is a sequel of sorts to a film called Locusts which, after suffering through this, I clearly have no desire to watch. It featured the same main characters, just different ‘problems’ for them to combat. I don’t really like the idea of bringing in these characters just to create some sort of series for fans of the original to follow. It’s a cheap ploy to attract viewers of Locusts – the sort of viewers aged 15-21 who have probably never seen a decent horror flick before and will think any old movie with a bit of blood and some killer critters is going to be the scariest thing ever. Anyway enough of the evils for the time being, I didn’t actually know it was a follow-up when I sat down to watch it so let’s forget about that link and focus on this film.

Bats have never really given me the creeps. I think they’re actually kind of cute (although I wouldn’t really want to hug one or let one near me). I guess there’s a lot of people out there who don’t like that whole association with the night and fear of the dark and what lurks in it thing. Added to that the fact that they’ve always been labelled as blood suckers (only three types of bat are and I’m sure they don’t try and attack 6′ 5″ guys) and you certainly have the potential for something to scare the pants off someone. But when the bats in this film look as cuddly as they do, you’d think that there was a plush toy promo going on. CGI bats fly in the moonlight and then the actors grab really bad puppets and hold them to their bodies to simulate attacks. They’re very small so quite how one or two them could overpower a big guy is beyond me. That’s pretty much the entire gist of it.

As for the story itself, well it’s the cookie-cutter ‘monster on the loose’ formula. A few random deaths, usually of drunks/bums/fisherman/hunters. A few pieces to the puzzle are found near the bodies. False accusations fly. Someone in a position of authority doesn’t want to acknowledge that there’s a monster problem because it will harm the town’s festival/property development/glamorous event. Said monster problem them comes and causes problems at said event. Then the scientists/experts are called in to deal with the monster… Yadda yadda ya. It’s the same film that’s been revamped countless times since Jaws and will no doubt be done to death countless times in the future too.

It’s a good formula and, like the slasher film, one that doesn’t leave a lot of scope for innovation. I do like to see films try and break the mould but Vampire Bats isn’t one of them. Its sooooo predictable, it’s not funny. Lucy Lawless is a decent enough actress, unfortunately forever shackled by the Xena tag. So why is she stooping so low to star in this? She can’t be that desperate for cash nowadays, can she?

 

Vampire Bats feels like a cheap watered-down horror flick that you’d put on TV during the day, such is the weakness of the entire film to scare, shock or even bombard with blood. In the feeble ‘killer bat’ genre, Vampire Bats comes up reeking of guano – a hard feat to accomplish given the equally sub-standard quality of other genre offerings such as Bats and Fangs.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Roost, The (2005)

The Roost (2005)

CAUTION…If They Bite You…Kill Yourself!

Four friends on their way to a wedding on Halloween find themselves stranded at a remote barn. Even worse for them is that the barn is home to a colony of vampire bats that turn anyone they bite into ravenous zombies.

 

There’s a little sub-genre of killer bat films now and the question has to be begged of why? The notion of killer bats shouldn’t really scare anyone and The Roost does it’s damned hardest to back my theory up. It’s clearly made by a bunch of people with a love for the genre. There are plenty of nods to the likes of George A. Romero and the film tries it’s best to turn into one of those low budget straight-to-video cult films of the 80s. However the problem is that these people clearly don’t love the genre that much to leave it alone! There’s been a lot of positive praise for this flick and I watched it with baited breath because a lot of hyped films have failed to deliver. Score The Roost into that column.

Unlike Bats, which was equally as feeble in the scare department, The Roost doesn’t explain the appearance of the flying fiends. In fact not a lot of things are explained or fleshed out. The plot is as flimsy and as basic as it needs to be. The characters are all given some token development early on before the carnage begins. Unfortunately the audience has no emotional connection to this bunch of characters so bland and devoid of individuality and intellect and so the whole affair turns into a long drawn-out saga. We don’t care when one character is turned into a zombie because we don’t know them well enough to give a damn. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to seeing stereotypes and cardboard cut out characters that this group of ordinary teenagers just doesn’t capture anyone’s attention.

The whole story about the bats is padded out by segments about a horror host introducing the film as if it were part of some late-night horror show. Whilst I welcome the addition of creepy-looking character actor Tom Noonan to any flick, the scenes with him introducing the film, appearing during an intermission and then popping up at the end to wrap the film up seem like gross padding. This isn’t some horror anthology that needs a wraparound story to link everything together so I don’t see the need to include these bits, save for the extra few minutes of running time they could tag on. At 80 minutes, it’s already scraping the barrel as much as it can and it feels terribly slow at times. You’d think the director would want to hurry up the talking and searching around and get down to the action as soon as possible. But there’s lots of filler to keep us yawning. If the director was hoping to crank up the tension before he got to the action, then he has surely failed.

One possible solution would have been to cut down the bats story a little bit more (in fact a lot more could have been cut quite easily) and maybe tacked on another short film to make a double feature. It would have at least made more appropriate use of the ‘horror host’ that’s for sure. Noonan gets top billing even though his screen time is minimal but at least it’s a fun rip on those ghastly late-night horror show presenters that try and hype up the terrible film of the week.

The film is eerily shot and the barn at least looks like a decent setting for a horror film with various rooms, levels and places to hide and crawl into. It’s quite dark and in some scenes it’s clear that only the limited natural light available has been used. At least the film looks like it was one of those cheap and nasty straight-to-video flicks that it was aiming to be, complete with grainy shots and sporting a slightly de-colourised look that makes it look like an old VHS that has been watched numerous times from the local video store. The bats themselves are CGI but they’re not really flapping around that much to really worry about. And there’s surprisingly little gore too.

Given that we’ve got zombies as well as vampire bats, the film was aching for a bit more of the red stuff. I guess this is the overriding problem with the film though in that it clearly wanted to be something more than it was meant to be. It takes almost an eternity to get to the bats and by that time, the film is nearly two thirds over. There are few shocks and scares. In the past, horror films tended to go down the gore route when they ran out of scares. It looks like the guys here ran out of money before they could even get started on a route!

 

The Roost is one of the most boring horror films I can safely say I’ve ever seen. It’s a slow, painful and tedious affair that promises plenty but delivers little except false promises. It tries to appeal to fans of old school low budget horror films by going along the same route but they were never this dull. You’re best off going back and watching one of them from the 80s to see how they were properly made.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆