"Things that go squeak in the night."
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 hanging from string 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, which is a problem that a film like Fangs has desperately got to try and solve.
Fangs seems to have taken this concept to ultimate lengths though. Knowing that bats aren’t truly scary, the film proceeds to prove that point at almost every opportunity with a more comedic approach to the material. The script attempts to infuse some humour into the mix with predictably poor consequences, as a slew of one-liners are thrown around. I'm guessing the writer and maybe some of his mates got the jokes and the brand of humour on show but for the rest of the audience, it just isn’t funny. Some of the characters in the film are a little too smart ass as well. Unless the writers 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 as it adds a bit too much camp and cheesiness. There's a bit of a trade-off between comedy and horror, and in Fangs' respects, it gets the balance too weighted on one side which is always the fine line when making a comedy horror. A bit more reigning in on the cornball dialogue and more focus on the atmosphere and some scares would have worked wonders here.
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. Thanks to the large number of these walking lunches, the bats are well fed throughout. There are lots of fake bats on display here but Fangs is quite happy to embrace the daftness, rather than attempt to make them appear scary.
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 when Halloween comes around - though I'm not sure that a younger audience would appreciate the genuine lack of thrills and spills here. However, adult fans of this type of sub-genre 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.
Reliable B-movie 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. Bernsen has been in this type of genre flick before and so he knows exactly how to play the hand he's been dealt.
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. The decision to play some of it off for laughs gives it a bit of edge on it's bat brothers but not much.
Director(s): Kelly Sandefur
Writer(s): Jim Geoghan
Actor(s): Corbin Bernsen, Tracy Nelson, Whip Hubley, Katie Stuart, Lukas Behnken, Michael Gregory Corina Marie
Duration: 94 mins