USA 1999

Reviewed by Kim Newman


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Gallup, Texas, the present. A young couple are killed by a swarm of bats. Dr Tobe Hodge of the Center for Disease Control puts together a bat-fighting team comprising expert Dr Sheila Casper and her assistant Jimmy, military researcher Dr Alexander McCabe and Gallup's sheriff Emmett Kimsey. McCabe reveals that he has experimented with a pair of Asian flying foxes. Having escaped from his laboratory, these foxes are infecting other bats with a viral agent that makes them intelligent and vicious.

After Sheila and Kimsey survive an encounter with the bats, Jimmy works out that the new species could overrun the world. The bats mount a mass attack on the town, during which Hodge is killed. The military considers carpet-bombing the county, although Sheila believes this will be useless. She is given a short amount of time to put into action her own plan, which involves locating the bats' lair and using a freezing device to force them into hibernation. The bats attack again. The pair of flying foxes that infected the other bats kill McCabe, but not before the scientist has admitted he deliberately let them loose from his laboratory. The military bungle an attempt to deploy the freezing device in the bats' lair, an abandoned mine. Though an air strike is imminent, Sheila and Kimsey venture into the mine, turn on the freezer, kill one of the flying foxes and seal the lair. The bombing is called off, but the surviving flying fox makes it to the surface only to be run over by the departing bat-fighters.


The south-western United States was last threatened by bats in Nightwing (1979), a minor revolt-of-nature horror movie adapted from a novel by Martin Cruz Smith. The model for this lively film, though, would seem to be Joe Dante's Piranha (1978), in which ravaging monsters were blamed on a military programme designed to mutate vermin into "perfect killing machines". Like the recent killer-crocodile film Lake Placid, Bats sticks to the ground rules of its genre - the opening sequence has a pair of young lovers torn apart by creatures that dart out of the sky - and gets through a story at once predictable and preposterous with an ingratiating absence of pretension.

Lacking the knowing edge which made Piranha and Lake Placid such enjoyable crossover successes, Bats will probably play best to horror devotees. A little-known cast cope with sketchy roles to the best of their ability. As star scientist Sheila, Dina Meyer has a well-crafted speech about how she overcame her childhood fear of bats by becoming an expert on the species. Lou Diamond Phillips is relaxed as a Texan lawman whose darkest secret is that he's a covert opera buff (he plays Lucia di Lammermoor - presumably there wasn't a copy of Die Fledermaus to hand - while the library is being equipped with an electric fence). Revitalising that stock horror cliché, the figure of the mad scientist, Bob Gunton lurks nicely - feigning guilt at first, then becoming increasingly strange - in a role that brings to mind the villainous character Bela Lugosi played in The Devil Bat (1941) who created an enlarged bat trained to kill when exposed to a particular scent.

Director Louis Morneau has a track record in ambitious titles, notably his time-travel thriller Retroactive, that have gone straight to video in the UK. Given a modest budgetary leg up, he makes good use of his desert locations, flashes of distorted bat point-of-view vision and tricksy editing devices that compensate for the sometimes creaky special effects. The bat attacks are mostly satisfactory: Sheila is at one point trapped in the ticket booth of a movie theatre (just as Tippi Hedren is confined to a phone booth in The Birds, 1963). Bats also recalls Gremlins - where a small town was attacked by similarly deadly furry creatures - during the scenes where Gallup's complacent residents discover their cherished guns are of little use to them when the bats descend. After a decade awash with CGI monsters, the rubbery look of the special effects that went into creating the lead bats almost gives rise to a twinge of nostalgia. Unfortunately, the bats don't quite deliver the fearsome charge the script requires of them, which means that subplots involving perilous mines and an imminent air strike are needed to heighten the tension. Full marks, though, for the film's closing moments which see the literal squashing of that horror cliché - the appearance of a lone suriving monster intent on launching one final shock attack - under the wheels of a departing vehicle.


Louis Morneau
Brad Jenkel
Louise Rosner
John Logan
Director of Photography
George Mooradian
Glenn Garland
Production Designer
Philip J.C. Duffin
Graeme Revell
©Destination Film Distribution Company, Inc.
Production Company
Destination Films presents a Louis Morneau film
Executive Producers
Steve Stabler
Brent Baum
John Logan
Dale Pollock
Associate Producer
Leif Larson
Unit Production Manager
Louise Rosner
Location Manager
Andy Langton
Post-production Supervisor
Lisa Rogers
Assistant Directors
Marco E. Black
Ty Arnold
Michael Hennessey
Script Supervisor
Delphine Slezak
Laura Schiff
Cate Praggastis
Steve & Edie
Camera Operators
Michael Mickens
Jason Hornbeck
Visual Effects
Netter Digital Entertainment, Inc
Digital Effects
POP Film
Special Effects
Eric Allard
Brent Bell
Greg Nicotero
James Hirahara
Luke Khanlian
Jake McKinnon
Shannon Shea
Marc Irvin
Mark Maitre
Timothy Ralston
Additional Editing
Bob Ducsay
Associate Editor
Meghan Noble
Set Decorator
Cynthia Epping
Scenic Artists
Rick Curtis
Heather Olson
Storyboard Artist
Kevin Farrell
Costume Designer
Alexis Scott
Costume Supervisor
Glenn Ralston
Key Make-up
Gina Homan
Special Make-up/ Animatronic Effects
Kurtzman Nicotero & Berger EFX Group, Inc
Key Hairstylist
Erin B. Lyons
Custom Film Effects
Main Title Card Design
Lumeni Productions
David Russo
Music Supervisors
Carol Sue Baker
Jonathan Hafter
Music Editor
Ashley Revell
Music Mixer
Mark Curry
"If Love Is a Red Dress (Hang Me in Rags)" - Maria McKee; "People in Texas Like to Dance" - Johnny Carroll; "One Less Fool" - The Souvenirs; "Don't Let the Doorknob Hit Ya" - Chris Anderson; excerpts from Gaetano Donizetti's "Lucia Di Lammermoor" - Montserrat Caballé, Jose Carreras and the New Philharmonia Orchestra; "Fury!" - Los Straitjackets
Sound Mixer
Stephen A. Tibbo
Re-recording Mixers
Ken Teaney
Marshall 'Spanky' Garlington
Re-recording Engineer
Michael A. Morongell
Supervising Sound Editor
Andrew DeCristofaro
Dialogue Editors
Paul Curtis
Frederick Stahly
John C. Stuver
Jason Lezama
Supervising Sound Effects Designer
Harry Cohen
Sound Effects Editors
Chris Smith
Mark Lanza
Adam Gillick
Jeff K. Brunello
Andrew Holt
Jeff Whitcher
Eric Williams
Steve Robinson
Rebecca Hanck
Ann Scibelli
Tim Walston
Bill Fox
Elisabeth Flaum
Matthew Morris
Michael Payne
Thor Benitez
Chris Staszak
Eric Thompson
Shawn Kennelly
Matt Beville
Paul Curtis
Frederick Stahly
John C. Stuver
Jason Lezama
Sean Rowe
Joan Rowe
Vince Nicastro
Thor Benitez
Chris Staszak
Eric Thompson
Shawn Kennelly
Matt Beville
Nancy Nugent
Stunt Co-ordinator
Kurt Bryant
Animal Trainer
Hoover Animals
Aerial Co-ordinator/ Helicopter Pilot
Dan Rudert
Lou Diamond Phillips
Emmett Kimsey
Dina Meyer
Dr Sheila Casper
Jimmy Sands
Carlos Jacott
Dr Tobe Hodge
Bob Gunton
Dr Alexander McCabe
David Shawn McConnell
Deputy Munn
Marcia Dangerfield
Mayor Branson
Oscar Rowland
Dr Swanbeck
Tim Whitaker
Juliana Johnson
James Sie
Sergeant James
Ned Bellamy
Major Reid
George Gerdes
Kurt Woodruff
second major
Joel Farar
Columbia Tristar Films (UK)
8,181 feet
90 minutes 54 seconds
Dolby Digital Surround-EX/DTS/SDDS
Colour by
Anamorphic [Hawk]
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011