First off, let me start by saying that bats – vampire and otherwise – are lame. Mice with wings? Please. Next, movies about bats – vampire and otherwise – are lame. Just ask Lou Diamond Phillips. Finally, TV movies about bats – vampire and otherwise – are especially lame. So basically, Vampire Bats: The Movie was doomed from the start.
Lucy Lawless plays Maddy Rierdon, a “voracious-insect” specialist who now teaches science at Tate University in Louisiana. After a run-in with voracious locusts in the series’ prior entry (which I did not see, nor do I give a rat’s ass about), Maddy longs for a simpler life with her husband and two kids.
Unfortunately, fate (or perhaps ridiculous coincidence) finds a way to stick it to our heroic voracious-insect specialist. When one of her beloved students turns up dead, and two others are held as suspects (despite the victim being riddled with animal bites and sucked completely dry of blood), Maddy takes it upon herself to uncover the truth behind the mystery.
Why would a college professor conduct a murder investigation, you ask? Or, the more intriguing question: What authority does she have to conduct a murder investigation (she not only has access to evidence, but the mayor himself!)? Well, there’s Maddy’s aforementioned love for her students, I guess. Plus, we mustn’t forget she’s an insect specialist (despite the fact that the titular creatures are not insects). But most importantly, Maddy appears to be the only person in the entire state who isn’t a complete knucklehead.
I guess this is the part where I should summarize the plot, but despite having watched Vampire Bats in its entirety, I can’t specifically recall anything that happened outside of people doing things and cartoon bats attacking. I think there were a couple parties where people were attacked by bats, and I vaguely recall a discovery where music either repelled the bats or attracted them. It may or may not have had something to do with Kenny Loggins, as well. To be honest, this movie was so painfully dull that none of the plot points stuck. Or perhaps they never existed in the first place. Take your pick. But at any rate, in summary, people did things and bats attacked. You can quote me on that.
Villains included the titular winged mammals, an evil mayor who looked incredibly like Dubya, industrial waste (you didn’t think they’d let a chance for a bludgeon-you-over-the-head environmental message slip by, did you?), the costume designer who dressed all the thespians under 21 like a Hot Topic employee, and an arrogant park ranger who didn’t believe a word Maddy said, constantly hewed on something while sneering, and didn’t let Yogi anywhere near anything remotely resembling a pic-a-nic basket.
Finally, I was going to wrap this up with a joke about how Vampire Bats can bite me, but honestly, haven’t we all suffered enough?
Back in the late ’60s, CBS got the reputation of being the Hick Network, because of its string of successful rural-themed sitcoms. The programs did well in the ratings, but the network got fed up with its image, and also wanted to target the younger audience demographic preferred by advertisers. In 1971 it cancelled two of the shows that comprised the Hooterville Trilogy; Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies (Petticoat Junction having been axed the year prior), as well as Hee Haw and Mayberry RFD. (The slaughter extended to such non-rural but older-skewing shows as Hogan’s Heroes, Gomer Pyle, USMC and The Ed Sullivan Show.)
Even so, until just recently, CBS remained the network of older viewers, with such elder-friendly series as 60 Minutes, Murder, She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder, Walker, Texas Ranger, Touched By an Angel, etc. Things only began to change when CBS pioneered the reality TV craze with Survivor and The Amazing Race, both still running, and both still the genre’s class acts. The transformation to a younger audience became complete with the advent of the CSI shows and their even more numerous clones.
Still, Sunday nights remained a problem, especially with 60 Minutes remaining the network’s lead-off show on those evenings. When NBC drew good ratings and favorable demographics last year with its popular if ludicrous disaster-themed miniseries 10.5, and CBS did well with its concurrent mini Category 6: Day of Destruction (the sequel to which runs this Sunday, Nov. 6th), the network ordered up a couple of animal attack TV movies. Back in March of this year, Locusts and Spring Break Shark Attack ran to decent ratings and comparatively young-skewing demos.
The former featured an attack of bio-engineered bugs and starred Lucy “Xena” Lawless as voracious insect specialist Maddy Rierdon. It was a strictly by-the-book affair, and had much in common with the dreadful 10.5, especially in their respective heroines, who wore their gender like a +10 Cloak of Moral Superiority. (It must be said that 10.5 was much more obnoxious in this department, though, largely because of a grating, nails-on-chalkboard performance from Kim Delaney.) Thus anyone who disagreed with them, especially if there were a *shudder* male, was inevitably either a fool or just plain corrupt.
As well, because it is assumed that the audience needs a heavy coating of Personal Issues to make up ‘care’ about the respective films’ cardboard-thin characters, both Lawless and Delaney were saddled with romantic attachments who complained that the ladies’ hard-charging, career-oriented focus left them feeling unimportant. Humorously, there’s little doubt that the writers of these epics thought the reversal of traditional sex roles in all this somewhat daring, although in fact over the last decade this has been as much of a clichÃˆ’ as the preoccupied male / frustrated female dynamic would have been in years prior.
Probably my favorite part of the sequel was the fact that CBS ordered and telecast it (despite delays caused by the hurricanes that occurred during shooting) in a narrow six-month window. That to me calls to mind the halcyon days of schlock producers like Roger Corman and Sam Katzman, who would rush a cheapie film into production to capitalize on some big budget movie due out on the same subject.
In any case, when last we left Maddy, she’d patched things up with her TV handsome, dedicated, sensitive, child-seeking hubbie Peter to the extent that they had an adorable baby in the film’s coda. Here we pick them up the couple a few years later. They now have two young children, and have relocated to Louisiana, where they both teach at a local college.
(My first problem with the film was when I learned prior to watching it that Maddy wasn’t called in as a consultant on the mutated killer bat situation, but instead just happened to be in the exact bat epicenter when it occurred. That’s…quite a coincidence. The very person who saved the country from a plague of mutated locusts. What are the odds? And as I was to learn, it was even more unlikely than that.)
The film opens outside a Mercier, LA cemetery, and we see a sign to this effect from an upside down perspective. Because, you know…bats and that hanging upside down thing. I was actually watching the movie at Joe Bannerman’s house, and enjoyed the fact that the film had him rolling his eyes in its very first seconds.
The camera pans past the gothic gravestones and such, until we end up in a decrepit onsite chapel, in which lurks a colony of CGI bats. One such, needless to say, flies right into the camera–BOO!–and we cut to the film’s title.
From here we ‘artistically’ cut to a driving beat-accompanied montage of unvaryingly hot college students going about their business (i.e., doing everything but studying). We quickly center on three such, a hot girl, a regular dude and their weird nerdy friend. We can tell the latter’s status because he’s wearing an army jacket, which I found especially weird because the first thing out of his mouth is a complaint about how hot it is. The weather is emphasized quite a lot, so I guess it’ll be a factor in why the bats are acting the way they are.
Cut to a raucous frat party, with more loud music and lots of quick cuts of hot chicks in bikinis. Think of the opening of about half the CSI episodes ever, if you include the ones set in dance clubs, strip clubs and the life. The guys are all shirtless and buff and yelling, the girls are messing around on a beer-drenched Slip ‘n’ Slide, etc.
This led me to theorize that the order from the network had been to Brundlefly the two previous animal attack films into one convenient package, with the result being more or less “Spring Break Bat Attack.” While Locusts lacked the ‘WB Hot Teen’ emphasis (and by ‘teen,’ of course, I mean kids clearly in their twenties) so markedly on display in Spring Break Shark Attack, this film provides it in spades, with Maddy finding herself saddled with an entire posse of Totally Rad and Happening Young Hot People. You know what I mean, the kind of kids who under better circumstances would be up on a rooftop somewhere, jamming away with their multi-ethnic peers and fantasizing about teaching the world to chill.
It’s here, by the way, that we get our first real scare. And it’s a doozy. This occurs when the words “special appearance by Brett Butler” appear on the screen. Yaaaah!!
Meanwhile, the aforementioned Trio of students is walking through the previously established graveyard. (The girl quite nearly pops out of her tight strapless top, and from the practiced way she yanks the material back up over her breasts, I can only assume this indeed happened on more than one occasion. She must have loved the costume department.) Given fictional town’s proximity to the bayou, the dead would all be interred aboveground, as is pretty standard in southern Louisiana, so right off the, er, bat, the movie’s going awry.
As they are lamenting who hard it is to have fun in college, a guy gives them fliers to an “underground rave.” Isn’t the ‘rave’ thing passÃˆ, yet? By the time I’m aware of something, it pretty much should be. That night we cut to the rave, which is taking place in a remote bayou house. Blah, blah, the party stuff continues. In contrast to the first movie, Vampire Bats had pretty poor ratings, especially for a horror movie playing the night before Halloween. I suspect that anyone (other than us bad movie nuts) much over the age of thirty pretty much gave up on the movie after the initial ten minutes focused on swilling beer, lascivious college students.
The ‘punch’ (mixed in a garbage can) is spiked with a big bag of what I presume is Ecstasy, reminding me of the roofie/date rape plotline from Spring Break Shark Attack. Anyway, Girl, Guy and Weird Friend show up. They drink the punch and get all high, in a TV movie sort of way. I really do wonder how much of the audience fled the movie during this scene, which is fairly excruciating. Anyway, Weird Friend wanders off and gets lost in the woods, and after an interminably long time, finally gets whacked (offscreen, of course) by the titular beasties.
The next morning we cut to Maddy and Dan’s house, which is a model of TV clutter of the sort meant to suggest that they are great parents of the sort too busy to worry about little stuff like keeping the house tidy. Maddy and Dan then argue over the housing, which they are renting (Maddy doesn’t like it, despite the fact that it pretty damn nice looks nice to me; Dan reminds her it’s temporary), and the fact that Dan’s sister Shelly, who Maddy has problems with, is coming over to baby sit.
This is because, again, it is taught at the same, awful class that all screenwriters seem to take now that Generic Strife is what keeps viewers interesting in the characters. To which I say again: Hey, teacher, leave those damn scriptwriters alone so that every frickin’ movie doesn’t seem like it was written by the same, badly programmed computer.
OK, this things going to run forever at this rate. Let’s go to the bullets:
Shelly is played by Brett Butler, who looks like she’s spent the years since Grace Under Fire getting herself ready, if you know what I mean, to star in a biopic of Mama Cass.
Maddy owns a classic old convertible, much like 90% of TV characters.
It’s the first day of classes. Hunky Dan’s students are all hot young females (c’mon, he doesn’t have a single male student, not even a gay one?), allowing for a rehash of that bit from Raiders of the Lost Ark when all of Indy’s girl students look at him dreamingly and sigh. One girl is pretty forthright in flirting with him, so I figured she was the movie’s Designation Slut and that she’d end up dead.
“Why don’t we get to the business of saving the environment,” Dan says. Here’s an idea: Why don’t you just, you know, teach them stuff and let them figure out what to do with it, you indoctrinating ass.
In Maddy’s Animal Behavior and Evolutionary Biology class (which includes Girl and Guy, who stagger in with an obvious hangover) the students make snarky remarks (Hot Chick commenting on nerdy student: “I thought this was Bio 311, not Fashion Victim 101”) of the sort indicating that they’ve seen episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer but didn’t learn much from them.
Why isn’t voracious insect super-expert Maddy teaching an entomology class (imagine the kind of academic job offers she would of gotten after the events of Locusts), instead of a generic animal behavior class at a small college? Because this movie is about bats, not insects. Duh.
Out in the swamp, Game Warden Schuster is brought out to examine some dead fake deer, which bear the marks (kinda) of having been attacked by something mysterious. I’m thinking it might be the bats. Anyway, Jay collects the bodies and burns them.
Maddy returns home and is enraged to learn that Shelly has straightened up the house. Ho, ho.
Cut to some comic relief fishermen, one of which is played by Scotsman Craig Ferguson, allowing for some CBS cross-promotion. They eventually fall to the bats, too. Offscreen, of course.
The police are meanwhile investigating Weird Friend’s body. The Sheriff is played by the guy who played the Warden in Steven Segal’s Half Past Dead.
Maddy begins a lecture on environmental depravation (shouldn’t that be in her husband’s class?), so apparently the villains in this movie will be Eeee-vil Industrialists rather than, as in Locusts, the Eeee-vil Military.
The Sheriff comes into Maddy’s class to arrest Girl (who I guess is Eden) and Guy (Aaron) on murder, because of Weird Friend’s death. Uh, he was killed by bats and they think he was murdered? The guys on CSI must be sooo embarrassed.
Because she’s a TV character, Maddy will, of course, decide to become involved in clearing her students. Just like in real life!
So Maddy goes to the police station, where the Sheriff is meeting with Mayor Poelker. I kept thinking he looked like George W. Bush (I mean, Professional George W. Bush Impersonator sort of ‘looked like’), but I thought maybe I was being paranoid, so I asked Joe. He confirmed that this was the case. Needless to say, the Mayor will be played as a buffoon for most of the rest of the movie.
Checking the IMDB, I see that Poelker was played by Timothy Bottoms, who in recent years has indeed made a veritable career out of playing President Bush (or analogs of him) in movies and TV shows (Comedy Central’s That’s My Bush!). I must say, he really has that creased forehead thing down.
Maddy tries to get Eden and Aaron freed on the grounds that, well, she doesn’t think they did it. “When it comes to murder,” the Sheriff replies, “it’s always the people you least expect.” Well, no. 98% of the time, it’s the person you most expect, unless you’re reading an Agatha Christie novel. Anyway, that’s the last thing a cop would say.
There is some really lame ‘evidence’ against the kids, anyway, to ‘justify’ their arrest. (This was set up earlier in one of those ‘THIS WILL OBVIOUSLY COME INTO PLAY LATER IN THE MOVIE’ bits) Again, though, I can’t get past the idea that the police would think what is clearly an animal attack would be a murder. In any case, they try to get rid of Maddy be discussing all the evidence with her, which again is the kind of thing that would only happen on a TV show. I mean, the incredible amount of time they put up with her here is just inane. And during all this, I might add, we never see a sign of either Aaron or Eden’s parents, or a lawyer, for that matter. Just Our Maddy.
Hearing of the lacerations on the corpse, which even the Sheriff notes are “possibly bite marks,” Maddy demands to examine the body. (Well, maybe somebody should.) To press her case, Maddy notes she has “a PhD in Animal Behavioral Biology”…which I guess explains why she was working as a voracious insect expert in the last movie. Wait, no it doesn’t. Nonetheless, this argument wins the day.
Maddy consults with the coroner, and asks to use her calipers, because she’s a SCIENTIST. (By the way, the body isn’t all that damaged, given the circumstances.) Although she can’t say what kind of bites they were, she does try to argue that the whole “bitten to death by animals” thing doesn’t really correspond to a charge of murder.
Maddy is next allowed to speak with Aaron and Eden. (!) This is an example of what I call Diagnosis Murder Syndrome, in which people unconnected with the police are allowed to freely take part in murder investigations, with everybody cooperating in this. For instance, this scene occurred in every Diagnosis Murder episode ever (as far as I know):
Doctor: “I’d like to ask you about that murder.”
Suspect: “Are you with the police?”
Doctor: “No, I’m a doctor.”
Suspect: “OK. Yes, I hated the victim…”
The kids spill their guts to Maddy, but never ask about their parents or why they don’t have a lawyer. Whatever.
By the way, Maddy would have been a national hero after Locusts. Couldn’t they have had her contact somebody high up in the government and ask them to clear the way for her involvement in the case? That would have taken ten seconds to establish, and at least would have given a token reason why the police and Mayor tolerate her poking around in things.
Meanwhile, the Rave organizers have found an abandoned underground complex of concrete “steam tunnels” and chambers, which are hooked up for power, under the town cemetery (!!!!). Again, this is right by the bayou, such a thing would be flooded all the time, and thus wouldn’t have been constructed in the first place.) They decide to hold their next rave there.
Did I mention there were a whole bunch of bats down there, which they somehow didn’t see?
Maddy and Dan go to their real house to check out the refurbishment work being done on it. It’s typically TV huge, of course, practically an estate, so I guess that’s why Maddy considers her present just-slightly-big rental house such a hole. The place is big enough that I laughed in disbelief when I saw it, anyway. Then, due to the Magical Coincidence Engine™, Maddy just happens to notice a small boat drifting in the swamp waters twenty yards from the house. It’s the dead fishermen’s boat, and *gasp* they find both bodies in it.
When the Sheriff arrives, Maddy argues that the new bodies indicate that he should release Aaron and Eden. Because this is a movie, he resists her advice. Which is retarded.
Game Warden Schuster pops up and backs up Maddy’s argument, explaining about the dead and similarly mutilated deer he’s been finding all over the place.
Maddy points out that the deer should be autopsied too to see if they were attacked by the same animals. Perhaps next she’ll suggest the Sheriff remove his pants before taking a crap.
President Bush, er, Mayor Poelker, however, dunderheadedly backs up the Sheriff and refuses her suggestion (which is seconded by the town coroner, who is also a woman and thus smarter than all the men), stating that he doesn’t want to start a panic. (Huh?) At this point I expected him to say something like, “Close the beach?! Are you crazy?!” Maddy, naturally, is disgusted by his refusal to deal with the situation.
Maddy notices guano on one of the bodies. Jinkies!
A drunken Slutty Girl, the one who flirted with Dan earlier, returns to her sorority room, strips down to her underwear-she was wearing a bra under her sundress for no real reason, oh, except that this was telecast on network television-and passes out on her bed. A bat flies in the open window and seems to be zeroing in on her panty-clad ass (much like the cameraman) before we cut away.
Shelly happens across Poelker as he’s walking to his car from food shopping and gives him grief because he’s a hapless George W. Bush clone. “It’s nice you’ve got time in your schedule to buy [peeks in bag] toaster strudel and prune juice while there’s a murderer running loose.” Yes, Mayor, stop eating until, uh, the people who should catch the murderer have done so! Lest we feel sorry for a man who finds himself hectored by a giant Brett Butler while just walking peacefully down the street, he darkly replies, “You shouldn’t put your nose where it doesn’t belong!” I guess because it’s a sinister thing to say, although she was just looking in his grocery bag.
“You know what gets me?” she says. “How the biggest weasel in high school got to be Mayor.” Yeah, it’s like how people can’t figure out how George Bush got to be President. Oh, wait, that’s right, he, the Supreme Court and Diebold stole both elections. That explains it.
Maddy and Dan go to a town mixer on a river boat. Maddy complains, because, you know, She’s Got Better Things to Do Than Play the Game. Poelker is there, and acts like a glad-handing, unctuous idiot throughout.
Meanwhile, the camera swoops down to show up a bunch of bats under the pier the river boat is tied to. Cue Ominous Musical Sting.
Down to the Rave, where the kids are, er, Raving. The Ecstasy Guy is selling drugs, so you know he’ll get it.
We cut back to the grown up party. I think this is meant to establish a comical contrast between their lame shindig is and the Totally Awesome Rave.
The bats fly en masse out from under the pier, about ten feet from the boat. They fly around in a mass, and cross over the full moon several times, and make a lot of noise, but nobody notices them until (three guesses) Maddy does some time later.
Eventually the bats from the pier attack the boat and (yay!) the bats in the steam tunnels attack the kids. I mean, who wouldn’t be driven crazy by that generic techno music?
These are network TV attacks, so don’t expect much. About the only one to die (among several hundred potential victims) in all this is Ecstasy Guy, because he’s completely stoned out of his gourd and just sits there while the bats go to town on him. (I guess those exact bats will be annoying the hell out of the other bats by demanding hugs and talking about how groovy everything is.)
Meanwhile, back to the adults. Maddy goes all Action Hero and saves the day on the river boat by ordering everyone to get inside the cabin and close the door. See, that way the bats would be outside and they’d be safe from attack. Apparently Maddy is the only one who would have thought of that, and indeed, everyone else just stands there screaming while the bats dive-bomb them. Anyway, the almost carnage goes on for a while, as this is the film’s big attack sequence.
Meanwhile, the editing does everything it can to insinuate that loud noises (the techno music, the river boat horn) is what drives the bats to attack. So figure on the venerable ‘sonic signal’ trope to be used in destroying the bats later in the movie.
In the aftermath of the attack, there’s press coverage, parents pull their kids out of school, Poelker is put on the spot, etc. Even so, these all occur in much more modest amounts than you’d expect. For instance, the press presence seems entirely local. Yeah, none of the cable news networks would want to cover a deadly mass bat attack.
Poelker is assailed by his constituents, who indeed *sigh* rotely reenact Jaws. Poelker, for instance, announces a dusk-to-dawn curfew (yeah, you’d think), whereupon one woman cries in horror, “I’ll lose my business!” Sadly, Maddy doesn’t then gain everyone’s undivided attention by scraping her fingernails across a chalkboard.
Instead, Poelker holds a closed-door meeting, which Maddy sneaks into. Seeing her, he rolls his eyes (much like me!), but lets her stay (much not like me!). This even after she has the balls to open things off by asking, “Well, Mayor, what’s your plan?” Here’s the first step: Have the cops haul your ass out of the room, lady.
Instead, Poelker *gasp* acts like an idiot (not really, but that’s how it’s meant to be taken) and naturally ignores Maddy’s mature advice. “You don’t have a plan, do you?” she notes in disgust. Being a bit slow on the uptake, it took a while before I finally realized that the scene was meant as a critique of the War on Iraq, with bats substituted for terrorists. Maddy says the problem will never be solved until we come to understand the bats, while Poelker childishly just orders Game Warden Schuster (standing in for the U.S. military) to “kill them. End of story.”
Maddy and the coroner, the film’s two Smart People (along with Dan and Maddy’s eventual sidekick student gang), look at each other in shocked amazement at this ridiculously unsophisticated, unnuanced order. I won’t go into how this ignores the fact that Bush’s plan for the Middle East goes well beyond “kill all the terrorists” (there being a whole ‘establish democracy’ aspect), but it does actually present a pretty accurate portrayal of how the wackier fringe of left-wingers view the guy.
The Woefully Unsophisticated Plan is to catch some bats, coat them with poison, and release them. Bats clean themselves with bouts of group licking, and therefore the other bats will ingest the poison and die. This actually sounds like a fairly good plan, but Maddy tries to shoot it down by claiming that they won’t kill each and every bat that way. I guess if you kill half or three fourths or ninety percent of the bats, that wouldn’t help a lick.
By the way, for all of Maddy’s eye-rolling, chest-thumping belligerence about how the Stoopid Men don’t have a plan…she doesn’t either. (We’ll get into this more later on.) She instead suggests catching some bats and studying them until a solution presents itself, whereupon Poelker retorts “How many people are going to die while we do this?” A point I completely agreed with, by the way. This is definitely Designated Hero terrain, here.
However, TV and movie writers will never buy into an icky plan of poisoning killer animals and such (see The Swarm and a million other examples). See, if you Care About the Environment, works like ‘poison’ and ‘chemicals’ are all grotty. Sure enough, Maddy responds by saying, “Even if the poison works…” Uh, why wouldn’t the poison ‘work’? It’s poison.
Later on in the movie, sure enough, Maddy again advices against using poison, which she calls the “slash and burn” option, another heebie-jeebie phrase for the Concerned Among Us. “There’s got to be another way,” she notes. In other words, yes, her objection isn’t in killing the bats-as she and her Scooby Gang will eventually stumble across a completely (and conveniently) clean way to do this later on-but rather that again, poison is icky.
Aaron and Eden have been released, and Maddy goes over the bat problem in class. This inspires her students to be Part of the Solution. Meanwhile, the issue of the bats being motivated by Man’s Deprivations Against Nature is raised.
In Dan’s class, Slutty Girl suddenly oozes foam out of her mouth and collapses to the floor. Well, that will teach her to be a vapid sorority girl with stuffed animals all over her bed, instead of being part of the Hip, Socially Engaged set, like Maddy’s students.
The horror continues as we segue to another comical scene with Shelly, who’s on a lunch date in the town diner. After a while I was wishing I was being attacked by flesh-rending bats, but no such surcease availed itself. However, eventually Shelly notices that Poelker is sitting at the bar having a Suspicious Meeting with a Mysterious Man in *gasp* a suit. Needless to say, this grabs her attention. I must admit this provides the best evidence we’ve seen that Poelker is actually an idiot. I myself, for instance, might not elect to hold my Nefarious Secret Meeting in the town diner at lunchtime.
Shelly gets her buddy the waitress to identify the Mystery Man by checking his bar receipt. Yes, it’s a gross invasion of privacy, but hey, Shelly is a Good Guy! In any case, all she really learns is that he’s from out of town.
The Scooby Gang spontaneously forms and demands to join Maddy on her bat-trapping field excursion. She refuses, but they show up anyway. Oh, those kids!
The plan involves staking out a goat to attract the bats. Maddy assures the kids (and the audience) that the goat won’t be harmed. Thank goodness! All those people getting killed is one thing, but harm coming to a goat?! Unthinkable.
By the way, one kid is a bit of a yuppie-I guess-and Maddy makes fun of his concern for the goat as surprisingly marking him to be a “sensitive boy.” Nice stereotyping.
They suddenly notice a lot of bats in the area, and run and hide in Maddy’s mini-van as the bats swarm. (Good thing she has a big vehicle, because the kids all apparently walked there.) Needless to say, Maddy had left her windows rolled down (!), and there’s a *cough* suspenseful second while she gets them rolled up.
One kid asks about the goat again, and Maddy tersely responds, “Don’t worry about the goat!” Hilariously, after the bats have left, they venture back outside and we see that the goat is indeed completely untouched. (!!) Maddy is armed with a broom (!), which one of the kids asks why she had in her car. “A good scientist is always prepared for the worst!” she replies. (!!!)
Anyway, they have netted three Muppet Bats (out of thousands of them) and take them back to the lab. Mission accomplished!
The bats have extra fangs, or something, which marks them as Super Mutant Bats.
Schuster shows up to confiscate the bats, for use in his plan to poison them. Apparently he’s too inept to capture any himself. Yes, yes, everyone who disagrees with Maddy must be a complete, hopeless doofus. Man, that kind of writing is so frustrating. Anyway, she objects, and he takes half the bats. Although later there are still three bats in the lab, so…
Schuster shows up in a field with three bats, which I guess represents his half of the three bats that Maddy started with, which is the number of them still left in the lab…my brain hurts. He’s put tracking doodads on them, sprays them with poison, and lets them free to return to their colony.
The coroner calls Maddy in (huh?), because she’s ignored the Mayor and performed a deer autopsy. The deer shows signs of having ingested some sort of chemical waste, which caused their internal organs to grown larger. (?) See, then the bats drank their blood, and the bats themselves mutated. Oh, the Humanity.
Needless to say, this leads Maddy to Something Generic Carbide, a company that’s been illegally dumping waste into the bayou. She naturally doesn’t go to the authorities with the evidence. And I don’t mean the locals; again, this woman has federal connections at the highest levels. Instead, she herself takes the Scooby Gang on, as one of the kids notes, an illegal trespassing and curfew-breaking party. (Actually, breaking the curfew is breaking the law, but anyway.) “It’s all in the name of Science!” Maddy responds, so I guess it’s OK
You know, the whole pollution angle actually makes me nostalgic for the environmental horror movies of the ’70s. Let’s see, Locusts featured bio-engineering, this one pollution. If they make another, we should see some animals made into giants by atomic energy, and the fourth should focus on the malign new power source of electricity.
After looking around aimlessly in the dark for about four minutes, they stumble across a pipe gushing Bad Stuff into the swamp waters. Eureka!
The next day Maddy goes with Schuster as he tracks the bats he released. They find an entire colony wiped out. This proves, actually, that Schuster’s plan was much better than he said, since he estimated that each poisoned bat would kill 20-25 other bats, whereas here three killed thousands.
Only Maddy, of course, is concerned that there may be other bat colonies. Of course, that means you could capture more bats and reproduce the poison plan, since it worked so well. They never do that sort of thing in movies, though.
This naturally leads to the movie’s Little Shark moment, as established in Jaws and indicative of the Authorities ignoring the concerns of the Film’s Heroes and falsely declaring the menace ended.
Late that night, the Scooby Kids are still messing with the three bats that represent Maddy’s half of the three bats that they originally caught. They start playing Generic Techno Music and that bats go, well, bats. See, in these movies every solution to the menace must be discovered by the sheerest accident. As Maddy herself declares later, “That’s what Science is! Convenient mistakes!” Or so Liz Kingsley always says.
Which means that when Maddy objected to the poisoning plan before, her alternative was basically, “Capture some bats, take them to the lab, and just do miscellaneous stuff until a solution accidentally presents itself.” And as we can see, her plan worked!!
As Maddy discovers the next morning, the kids have established that radio feedback acts as an irresistible homing signal for that bats. Yawn! That old bit! Damn, that was old when Bert I. Gordon used it in Beginning of the End, back in 1957.
Before that, though, two kids from the Scooby Gang depart from the lab, whereupon they sneak into someone’s backyard to use their pool and fool around, with obvious results. Which means that *gasp* the bat menace isn’t over!
Shelly hears Maddy and Dan discussing the company doing the illicit dumping, and mentions that she saw Poelker talking to a guy from that firm. (How and when did she find that out?) Again, good plan, holding a secret meeting in the town diner.
The next day, Shelly is downtown with her young nieces. She sees Poelker, and loudly begins yelling about what she knows. Then, despite being such a firecracker (a word I am almost sure appeared in the script), she allows a menacing Poelker to herd her and the kids into her car, put the children into their kid seats, and then drive away with him…all in broad daylight, and right in front of the town diner! (No wonder Maddy didn’t want her watching the kids!)
Schuster has found another bat colony. Working with Maddy, they plan to use the Signal to draw the bats into the previously established steam tunnels, then turn up the heat and scald them all to death. Er, yes, that’s much more humane than poison.
Maddy and Dan next learn what happened to Shelly from the diner waitress, and they go over to the Mayor’s office and burst in. Here, to my amazement, we get an actual plotting surprise. Poelker, we learn, isn’t one of the bad guys, but has been working with a whistle blower (the guy in the diner) to garner evidence about the illegal dumping and close the company down. I have to admit, seeing something this out of the B-movie template was pretty flabbergasting, and it really made me wonder why the rest of the movie was so mechanically dumb.
So in the end, I have to give the film this much credit: Their analog of President Bush is lamentably dumb and bullheaded and ignores people smarter than him and can’t remotely manage a crisis, but is nonetheless not intentionally villainous. That’s about the most positive portrayal of him I’ve seen in a movie in a long time.
However, there’s still a Mystery Local working for the Corporate Bad Guys. Given the characters in the film, that leaves only the Sheriff and Schuster. Anyway, there’s only eight minutes of movie left now, so the villain should be revealed pretty soon.
Again, (running) time is short, so Maddy is quickly down in the steam tunnels (with her broom, of course) with Schuster, prepping them for Operation Bat Bake. At this point there’s not a lot of time left for nuances, so Maddy suddenly turns into a complete moron and nonchalantly blabs about the whole Carbide thing to Schuster, who is *gasp* the secret bad guy. He reveals himself, in turn, by mentioning what chemical has been dumped, which Maddy hadn’t disclosed. So he’s as retarded as she is. (Plus, yeesh, the old Saying Something Only the Killer Would Know. See why I was amazed the Mayor was a good guy.)
Anyway, he cuffs her to a pipe, so she’ll die with the bats. Maddy, however, used to be Xena, and she trips him and keeps him from leaving the tunnels, too. She does this with the broom, by the way, explaining why the screenplay made such an issue of the thing. Also, just so you know, common household brooms make much more formidable weapons against fit, fully grown men than you might think.
Having rendered Schuster unconscious (again, with the broom), she grabs his keys and frees herself. However, the bats are approaching and he’s too heavy to life, so she’s forced to leave him to his fate. He doesn’t, naturally, wake up in time to experience being bitten and steamed to death.
Maddy outruns (well, out jogs) the bats in the same way you can outrun a fireball, or an explosion, or a wall of water, or really pretty much anything in a movie. She gets outside in the knick of time, and the bats are down.
As in Locusts, we end with a bucolic family moment with Maddy, Dan and the kids “Three Months Later,” although their baby is the exact same size. (Plus, serial dater Shelly is now dating Poelker! That poor guy, what did he do to deserve that?) However, just before we sign off, Maddy suddenly assumes a worried look. I had assumed we’d learn that she had spotted a bat, but no, the movie just ends. Whatever.
I just wish to note in advance that I didn’t see Locusts, so there are undoubtedly a few references that probably went right over my head because of that. [Editor Ken: Not really. For an incident in which the entire nation was nearly destroyed, it doesn’t seem to have stuck in anyone’s mind very much.]
We open with a rotating camera as it flies through a cemetery near an old church. Hey, it’s a Treehouse of Horror! Yep, there’s American Workmanship, Elvis Presley, and Snowball One. We pan around a bit, which you had better get used to as the director was quite enamored with this technique, and go inside a church. This isn’t just any ordinary church though, as its entire ceiling is covered with bats; one of which dives at the camera.
The next scene is a typical college campus, with typical students chattering in an unbelievably inane fashion. We quickly focus in on three characters, Eden, Aaron, Jason, who mock the local “cool kids”. These are having a frat party, which seems to be focused around a Slip and Slide of all things. The conversation turns to the sorority sisters and frat brothers not really being cool, which garners the following scintillating dialogue:
Jason, I redub thee Sir Nerdly McBatbait.
By the way, this film includes a special appearance by Brett Butler, and considering her career as late, any appearance has to be special where she’s concerned. Yeah, yeah, easy joke.
The three debate trying to get beer with a fake ID, which results in one of the weakest burns every performed. So they don’t even know one upperclassman that’ll buy them beer? Our insipid trio walks past a guy handing out fliers for an Underground Rave, which they decide to attend.
We get a typical “WHOOOOOOOOOO! PAR-TAY!” montage as a guy pours an entire sandwich bag of what I guess is cocaine into a vat of punch. How much would that stuff cost anyway? Eden, Aaron, and Sir Nerdly show up and she slaps a mosquito off of Nerdly. Foreshadowing! There’s no beer at the party, just “Planter’s Punch” whatever that is (I freely admit my naivetÃˆ where such things as concerned) that you buy a cup for and then proceed to drink yourself stupid all for the low, low price of a mere ten dollars.
The scene shifts to later after the party to when they’re drunk and staggering home. McBatbait wanders off by himself and then notices that he’s by himself; a nerd; and in a horror movie. Unsurprisingly, he freaks out when he hears various squeaks and flutters around him. The camera pans around and our first victim tries to run away, but trips and falls into a puddle. At this point, it becomes blatantly obvious that the director recently watched one of the Evil Dead movies as Nerdly is attacked by a shaky POV monster.
Now, the next scene is the next morning as our main character, Maddy, has a typical suburban breakfast situation. She and her husband, Dan, wind up arguing over the babysitter; it seems that Maddy doesn’t like Dan’s sister Shelly nabysitting because she rearranges the furniture or something. It turns out that the sister is Brett Butler, who stumbles while coming in. Huh, I wonder if that was supposed to be a comment on how cluttered the house is or if they just couldn’t be bothered to reshoot the scene.
The spouses go to work at the local college. Dan gets hit on and Maddy has Eden, Aaron and the corpse formerly known as Sir Nerdly in her class. [Editor Ken: Obviously, he’s not in the class right now.] Maddy makes a lame joke that gets a laugh from a guy named Miles; she fires off another one about his clothes, which prompts a snarky remark from another girl. Get used to that because that’s all that girl does in this film.
We cut to a ‘gator in a swamp and a fan boat to establish that this is indeed Louisiana. One of the two men in the boat complains about finding yet another dead deer, which cuts into his business. The game warden promises to file a report about it. Two deer have been slashed up, which indicates more than one creature did this to them. Now, the bats are supposed to be doing this, but I have to question how that’s even possible. A mountain lion would be hard pressed to make slashes that big and we’re supposed to believe that bats did this?
Maddy and Dan return home to find that Shelly has, gasp, rearranged the dishes! Shelly leaves after Maddy manages to avoid bashing her for cleaning her house. The film momentarily returns to the warden, who is apparently destroying evidence by burning the dead deer.
Now that that’s out of the way, the film introduces our next two victims, who are engaged in a little night-fishing. One of them has a Scottish accent that Scrooge McDuck might describe as being a bit broad. Our Scot, Homer, wait… Homer? Why not Fergus or something a bit more Scottish? Anyway, Homer makes a rum, buggery, and the lash remark, but the other guy ignores it. Not his sort of thing I guess.
The cops have found Nerdly’s corpse, which is described as being messed up. I guess that’s an Informed Attribute™ because he just looked like he had a few stripes of blood on his face. They wonder what kind of wounds these are and Sheriff Herbst orders that they go around and question people at the college.
Meanwhile, Homer gripes about not catching anything and then clowns around a bit, which gets a rebuke from the other guy. Homer complains that he isn’t paying him $200 for attitude and no fish. Yeah, it does seem a bit much that a guy be that snotty with somebody who’s basically paying him to sit around and do nothing for hours. Homer hears a noise and asks what it is. Other guy is unable to identify it; c’mon, it’s a fluttering sound, either it’s a bird or it’s a bat. He asks for the lantern, which is apparently a signal for a POV attack.
The next day, Maddy’s lecture about shrinking habitats is interrupted when cops come in looking for Aaron and Eden, who are suspects in a murder case. Maddy cancels the class and runs off to help her students. She follows the Mayor, who looks somewhat familiar, and the Sheriff. The Sheriff notes that the three had attended an underground rave just before Nerdly’s death, and then explains just what an underground rave is for Maddy’s benefit. So, considering that its underage drinking, trespassing, and drugs, then they should get into trouble even if they’re not guilty of murder. Right? Right?
The Sheriff then plays a phone message tape of Eden calling her roommate to say that something has happened to Jason and that she and Aaron don’t know where they are. Maddy proclaims the tape inconclusive, despite well, all evidence to the contrary. The Sheriff also notes that they had trace amounts of ecstasy and blood on their clothes. She demands, and is given, a chance to look at the body and points out that an animal made the marks. Shouldn’t the presence of saliva in the wounds give that away?
Maddy then talks to Aaron and Eden, who explains the blood as being the result of the mosquito that she squashed on Jason earlier. So the police were fooled by that much blood? Maddy believes them because IITS. We get a sensationalist newspaper headline about Vampires among Us as two guys are looking for a site for the next rave. A third guy has found the spot and takes them over to what appears to be a stone casket. Huh?
Actually, it’s the decorative cover to some kind of tunnel. Judging by the industrial fan in the background, the tunnel is obviously a temporal gateway to some dystopian future. It opens up into an abandoned coffee factory as a bat flutters around in the foreground. The three plan the layout for their party, while the bat refrains from attacking. No doubt it’s figured out that they plan to bring more food there later and will seek out reinforcements.
Maddy and Dan discuss their future dream home and make several references to Locusts in the process. They discover the boat with the dead fishermen and Dan runs off to call 911. Maddy yells for him to call the Sheriff’s Department. Well, what else was he going to do? Call an ambulance? Better make that a hearse, I reckon. Mmmhmm.
The cops, coroner, and Mayor Poelker arrive on the scene and discuss the situation. The newest deaths prove that Aaron and Eden weren’t response, so they should be released… well, outside of everything else they did anyway. The Mayor refuses to warn people about the situation, which is standard operating procedure in these kinds of movies. He notes that the authorities are on it and they’ll deal with it. They find a clue in the form of guano, which Dan explains to the audience, as I find it hard to believe that the coroner wouldn’t know.
At a sorority, Slutty Girl from earlier is drunk. She is taken upstairs by her Sisters and we get a bit of fan service. She goes to bed and a POV, which is apparently also drunk, flies in through the open window and lands on her back. She doesn’t notice, which seems to bit hard to reconcile with what we see later even if it does make sense considering that it’s a vampire bat. Boy, if that bat wasn’t wasted before, it will be now.
The Mayor and Shelly snipe at each other a bit as he was apparently a bit of a jerk to her in high school. She asks him how the biggest weasel in school got to be Mayor and he politely laughs it off. I’m guessing that had a lot to do with it. The Mayor is on his way to a college faculty meeting on a river boat, where he meets Maddy and Dan. He then fires off the old Bush ‘henh henh henh’ snigger after noting that it should be fun. A three hour tour remark from Maddy precedes a pan over to the underside of the dock, which is just covered with bats.
A rather nerdish woman talks about her various projects and is asked about bat attacks by Maddy, the woman turns out to be Head of the Biology Department at the college and dismisses the notion of local bats attacking people. She makes a lame joke about them not hurting a fly before taking a phone call. Dan and Maddy mock her a bit, with Maddy wondering how her students stay awake. Well, she might be a bit dry, but she really does seem enthusiastic about her field, so there’s no need to make fun or her.
At this point, the movie starts shifting back and forth between the faculty party and the rave, sometimes without warning. For the moment, though, we shift to the rave. On a side note, raves are something that I’ve often seen depicted, but would not in a trillion years ever want to attend. Wild pans, flashing lights, and nondescript techno music abound as the camera pans up to reveal that the ceiling is just swarming with bats. This is pretty much a laugh out loud moment as I can’t possibly figure out how they could have gotten in without people noticing; even if they were already there, somebody would have to have noticed them while stringing up the lights.
The guy who found the party site in the first place is busy selling drugs and we get an odd remark about not being “able to find this stuff in Kentucky”. Yeah, I bet Deertick, Louisiana is going to be that much more cosmopolitan than Louisville. Back to the faculty party where those bats, defying all logic, seem to be waking up first. They fly out in a great swarm that curves in front of the moon due to union bylaws before swooping back towards the ship. Back to the rave, where a suggestion to kick it up a notch apparently actually speeds the action up for a second. Weird.
Ship– horn sounds as bats swoop in.
Rave– Kentucky boy Mickey is passed out on a sofa
Ship– Mayor compliments Boring Lady and Maddy gets a bad feeling about this, as she sees the bats swoop in.
Rave– The music is finally getting on their nerves, so the bats become more active. A squeal of feedback causes them to spaz out and start flying about and
nobody notices for a fair amount of time. One girl finally notices and starts screaming.
Ship– Maddy wants everybody to get downstairs as people finally notice the giant cloud of bats heading towards them.
Both locations– panic sets in.
Ship– One waiter falls over the buffet table, which you can hardly blame on the bats. Another woman is attacked by the bats after losing her glasses; oh, for… just roll over woman, it can’t weight more than a few ounces. Just crush the stupid thing.
Rave– Mickey is attacked by the bats in several unconvincing shots. One of the bats has eyes that look especially fake.
Ship– Boring woman does a “THEY’RE IN MY HAIR! THEY’RE IN MY HAIR!” routine and falls overboard; Dan jumps in to get her.
Rave– Mickey’s bloodied corpse is discovered by a fellow conspirator.
Ship– Most people are safe downstairs, including Dan and Boring Woman.
The next scene opens with a news report from the campus as we see a small shrine to Mickey next to the steam tunnel cover. Parents are withdrawing their children on account of the deaths. Mayor Bush is bombarded by questions at a press conference and declares a mandatory curfew. Some woman notes that it’ll hurt her bar if people can’t go out. Because the ability to drink booze outweighs the danger posed by a swarm of killer bats. The game warden ends the press conference by promising to do everything he can.
In a private meeting, Maddy slips in behind the Mayor, Warden Schuster, and the Sheriff and horns in on the plans for the bats. Schuster suggests putting poison on some of them; the other bats will groom them and become poisoned. Maddy argues with this as it won’t work because she’s the main character and says that it won’t work. Mayor Poelker wonders if they couldn’t just bomb some alligators instead, but ends the conversation by telling Schuster to kill the bats.
Aaron and Eden return to the applause of their classmates and the class becomes a discussion of vampire bats. We cut to Dan’s class, where Slutty Girl starts foaming at the mouth (oh, come on, his class can’t be that boring) and passes out. Next, we zip to Shelly and her date at a restaurant where she spies Poelker with some bearded guy. When questioned, the waitress reveals the guy’s name and the fact that he works for that chemical plant outside of town, which is named Weyland Utani Carbide or Yoyodyne Water Systems or something. Oh, and by the way: DUN DUN DUNNN!
The class discussion continues about bats and Maddy proclaims her intent to capture one. They’ll have left the old site as the bats are too smart to return to the scene of the crime. Her students offer to help her capture one, but she manages to put a couple of them off by noting that a classmate caught rabies from a bit. Wait, how would she have known that? Did they come back later in the evening to continue their discussion or was the scene in Dan’s class a flashback?
She tells them to leave and then herself leaves to go get a goat. We next see Maddy trying to get the goat out of her car as her students show up. They managed to outsmart her by getting their rabies shots. They string up a net, tie the goat to the tree, and then flee the oncoming bats back to the car. I can’t help but think that something was cut as we abruptly jump to them getting back out of the car and walking to the net, which has managed to trap several bats. There’s a line in here about a broom that is probably a reference to Locusts. The goat is, surprisingly enough, completely unharmed despite the massive cloud of bats we saw earlier.
The campus is now covered with vendors selling Anti-Bat Spray (“Quick Robin use the Bat Anti-Bat spray!”) and bat-related T-shirts. Death is funny! Warden Schuster is a bit annoyed at Maddy and her students, apparently more so than the Sheriff. He didn’t catch him any bats, so it’s probably just some sour grapes. Anyway, these bats have twice as many fangs as normal, which should make them an entirely different species, but it’s chalked up as a simple mutation, that apparently occurs in each bat. The extra fangs make them more efficient at gathering food, which makes them eat more, and, if I’m not mistaken, should also up their reproductive rates. So this is pretty much evolution rather than simple genetic mutation, but nobody points that out.
Maddy pulls rank to keep some of her bats, but Schuster takes a few of them with him. He attaches them with tracking devices, sprays them with poison, and then sets them free. Rather than simply attacking him, they spiral off into the sky. Two of them head in one direction while a third takes off in the opposite direction in plain sight of where he released them. So that should confirm that they have more than one nest. The solo bat flies into an unfinished or abandoned home, while the tracking light flashes to let us know it’s on there.
We cut back to Maddy and Dan who are informed by the coroner that the deer contain hexachlorobenzene, which is apparently used to fight fires. Dan questions where this could have come from, a forest fire perhaps? No, it’s being dumped by the waste incinerator outside of town, by Generically Named Carbide Industries. She takes her students on a trespassing field trip. Miles notes that they’re both “breaking curfew and the law”. Wait, it’s a mandatory curfew so… no, if I think too much about that, my head will probably explode.
They wander around a bit and we get a fake scare by one of the class jokesters; we get a rustling in the bush that turns out to be nothing, and Maddy orders them to spread out. There are deer tracks everywhere, which causes Miles to note that the deer are drinking the water. A girl, I think she’s named Lizzie, mocks him for this; her only job during any of these scenes will be to make snotty remarks that contribute nothing. They find a pipe that pours out a putrid smelling chemical mix that Maddy takes a sample of by sticking a test tube under the pipe. Good thing it’s not caustic as her hand was completely unprotected. They scamper off when security shows up after making sure that the intruders had plenty of time to do whatever it was that they came for.
Schuster and Maddy show up at the house that we saw the bat enter earlier; the floors are now covered with dead bats, though I would swear that I heard one squeak during this. Schuster gloats, but she points out that there may be more than one nest, which is something that he should already know seeing as how the bats split up just seconds after he let them go. We have yet another pan across the campus as the hot news is now that the bats are dead. Slutty Girl manages to recover from rabies without too much trouble and so life is back to normal.
Late that night, Maddy’s students are feeding the bats, whose cage is behind a heavy curtain, and discuss how lame they are for still being there. They begin to play music and ‘dance’ as Miles tells them to stop screwing around. Sadly, the fact that they’ve survived this long indicates that all of these people are going to live throughout the film. Feedback from the speaker enrages the bats, which causes them to look behind the curtain. This is the cue for a bat to LUNGE at the camera and cause the students to stumble backwards. The students then share a meaningful glance at the speaker.
So, now that “it’s over”, it’s time for somebody else to die. So, two potential victims show up at a currently unoccupied house and strip down to their underwear. They jump in the pool, but the girl tells the guy to get back out and turn off the lights. He doesn’t come right back and she starts hearing fluttering; bats begin to dive-bomb her as they attack the guy right who’s standing right beside the pool. Man, just jump in already. Jossie, I think her name is-something like that anyway-manages to elude the bats by diving under the water until they go away. She finally resurfaces to find Don’s dead body floating beside her.
Tests reveal that Maddy’s water sample is full of hexachlorobenzene, which is being drunk by the deer, and which is mutating the bats by giving them an extra set of fangs and an increased appetite. I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t work that way. Arbco Carbide Inc. is covering up the damage that they’re doing to the ecosystem. Shelly chooses this time to mention Poelker’s meeting with the bearded Evilco and Carbide guy just as Maddy gets a phone call that another of her students is dead. Geez, Mother Nature hates this woman…
She walks up to her classroom to find all of her students huddled around the door looking in. They have let the bats loose and demonstrate for Maddy how the bats can be lured around the room and back into their cage by a system of speakers. Wait, how did they possibly set that one up in the cage without being bitten or scratched?
Meanwhile, Shelly confronts Poelker about Union Pacific and Carbide and he menacingly orders her into his car, but they wind up taking hers because he doesn’t have any car-seats for the kids. The waitress observes this with a worried expression from the window of the restaurant.
Also meanwhile, Schuster goes inside the abandoned church and discovers that the bats have yet another lair. Man, how many abandoned buildings are there in this town anyway? They can’t simply burn down the church as it’s a historical landmark, albeit one that nobody is bothering to maintain, and it’s hard to guarantee that the bats would all be killed.
The students propose luring them down into the steam tunnels that we saw earlier, which doesn’t make Herbst happy as he points out that they shouldn’t have been in there in the first place. Anyway, they’ll lure them down there with the speakers and then cook them with a blast of steam. Maybe add a little cilantro and a bit of garlic, and them’s good eatin’, I guarantee. Steamed bat for all! One of the caged bats goes nuts at this point and apparently offers to take them all on in batspeak, judging by body language.
They need to do it tonight because it’s a new moon and the weekend is coming up. Curfew or not, people will be out on the streets, presumably because they’re idiots and the cops are all at home because of the curfew. Maddy and Dan run back home and look for Shelly, but she’s not there. Her cell phone is, however, and Maddy answers a call from Shelly’s earlier lunch date, Carl, who notes that Shelly was going to the restaurant with the kids earlier.
The scene switches to the various preparations around the church for that night, and then back to Maddy as she learns from the waitress that Poelker and Shelly went off with the kids. The two parents hurry off to the Mayor’s office to find that everything is perfectly alright; the whole menacing thing was… well, who knows? Poelker reveals that Industrialized Carbide and Kittens has been covering up their dumping by paying off some local official; the guy Shelly saw him with was a whistle-blower. When asked who was being paid off, he responds with a “What, Me Worry?” shrug; his investigation wasn’t complete before the bats interrupted it.
Maddy goes to the church to help oversee the project and is presented with a broom by Miles, which will come in handy in a moment. Dan heads off for the power plant to personally control the steam, which you’d think would be something a professional would be in charge of, but meh. Maddy heads down into the tunnel to find Schuster, who is finishing work on the speakers. She reveals the plot by Umbrella Carbide, but he’s already well aware of that. He handcuffs her to a pipe and prepares to leave her there to die as he tells the students via walkie-talkie to turn on the church signal. Sadly enough, this isn’t a giant searchlight that puts a stylized Notre Dame signal in the sky, but nondescript techno music that brings out the bats.
So, how exactly was he going to explain her dying as a result of being handcuffed to a pipe? Why not just hit her from behind and hightail it out of there? Because if he did that, then she wouldn’t be able to trip him with her broom and steal his keys. She flees the bats, which swarm Schuster; and the steam, which cooks the bats. Problem solved. We end three months later as Shelly and That’s My Mayor are either dating or married, while Maddy and Company are ensconced in their new home. She has a worried look for a second, foreshadowing no doubt.
Scott Foy, a.k.a. The Foywonder (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“Professor, why do you have a broom in your car?”
“A good scientist is always prepared for the worst.”
In only a few short years Lucy Lawless has gone from running around the ancient world as Xena, Warrior Princess, hurling her Chakram in a on-going struggle against the forces of evil, to running around Southern Louisiana as Maddy Rierdon, former Undersecretary of Agriculture-turned-college Animal Behavior & Evolutionary Biology professor armed with a broom for use in a battle with vicious mutated vampire bats. Her descent from “Battle On, Xena” to “Prattle On, Maddy” is actually rather depressing when you really think about it.
Vampire Bats is CBS’ follow-up to this past April’s Locusts, a telefilm so utterly abysmal in every imaginable way that I couldn’t even bring myself to complete a review of it because I hated the movie so much I didn’t even want to give it the acknowledgement of a review. Think about the films I have reviewed and then try to comprehend that last sentence. My hatred for Locusts stemmed mainly from the bait and switch CBS pulled, hyping it as a movie about man-eating locusts that turned out to really be a piss poor ecological disaster film about government officials racing to come up with a way to defeat a swarm of genetically engineered super locusts that threaten to devour the United States’ food supply. Despite being a monumental stinkbomb, Locusts was a ratings winner and a sequel was rushed into production.
Just in time for Halloween comes Vampire Bats, bringing back the husband and wife scientist team of Lucy Lawless and Dylan Neal, although Neal is pretty much a non-entity in this one; his role consisting primarily of offering moral support to Lawless. On the plus side, Vampire Bats is a million times better than Locusts and actually has vampire bats killing people. On the negative side, being a million times better than Locusts still isn’t particularly high praise. Nonetheless, it’s hard to completely hate on this film as it’s an F5 on the Fujita scale of hokiness.
Having left her job at the USDA in order to start a family with her husband and fellow ex-government scientist, agricultural-biological superheroine Maddy Rierdon now finds herself working as a college professor at a fictional college in a fictional small town just on the outskirts of New Orleans. Talk about bad karma. Vampire Bats was actually filming in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina blew through, forcing the production to move up to Nova Scotia. The recent fate of the Big Easy is never mentioned in the movie, so I’m led to believe that this film takes place in an alternate universe. It must be an alternate universe because it has only been six months since Locusts aired and Maddy has managed to give birth to two kids, one of which appears to be about four years old.
Further proof of this film not taking place in the universe as we know it, Maddy claims that they moved there “in search of a simpler life.” Excuse me, but even before Hurricane Katrina irrevocably altered life there, nobody ever moved to New Orleans in search of “a simpler life.” That’s like saying you moved to Los Angeles in search of cleaner air.
The biggest horror of all isn’t the bats as far as I’m concerned but former Grace Under Fire star Brett Butler as Maddy’s nosy Martha Stewart meets the “Kiss my grits!” waitress from Alice sister-in-law. There really is no need for the inclusion of her character. Plus, she’s got her Southern accent working in overdrive for this one. Had the movie concluded with her contracting rabies from a bat attack and Lucy Lawless having to put her down with a shotgun blast like Ole Yeller then this would have been a five-star film. One can dream.
After one of her students becomes the first victim of the bloodthirsty bats (murdered by a swarm of vampire bats: reason #142 why you should never try Ecstasy) and two other of her students that were last seen with the victim are taken into custody, Maddy volunteers her services as a bite mark expert because apparently there is nobody in the coroner’s office that can do that job. She determines that it was an animal attack but she cannot identify what the animal is. The students remain in custody because they had the victim’s blood on their clothes which they actually got from – prepare yourselves for this one – swatting mosquitoes on their shirts that had drunk his blood prior to the bats drinking the rest of it. The newspapers label them as being “vampire killers.”
You’d almost think these bats were stalking Maddy. They kill one of her students, leave another blood-drained corpse in a boat to wash up on the shore of her riverside home, and then wage an all out attack on the riverboat party she attends. You’d think it was personal. Maybe it is. We’re told that bats typically feed on insects and since Maddy helped kill off the locusts in the previous movie perhaps the bats are getting revenge for having one of their favorite meals taken away from them? If that had been the case it would have proved a billion times more entertaining than the explanations we are given.
Another coed is so wasted that she doesn’t even react to the bat that flies in her dorm window and bites her. She then contracts rabies from the bat bite but shows no signs of being sick until she begins foaming at the mouth during class. I thought there was no cure for rabies and yet there’s this girl completely recovered a week later. Yet another miracle of this alternate universe?
The campus rave organizer/Ecstasy dealer finds a subterranean cul-de-sac just off-campus and deems it perfect for their next underground rave. Somehow these students are able to go down there, set up the lights and stereo equipment for the rave, and get well into the partying without anyone including the dozens of partygoers noticing that the ceiling is covered with vampire bats. For that matter, the bats fail to wake up and express their disdain for the intruders and their fluorescent lights and techno music until they get their cue from the screenwriter. In the process, the rave organizer passes out after dropping Ex and becomes a vampire bat juice box. See a pattern developing?
Maddy lectures the class on how not only are vampire bats not native to Louisiana; she believes something environmental is causing them to go berserk. Without hesitation, her students volunteer to help her and thus the Scooby Gang of WB Network rejects is born. And it does indeed turn out that the bats are highly aggressive mutants possessing an extra set of fangs that allows and requires them to consume more blood. What could possibly be causing this? Hey, who is that mysterious waste management official from out of town that the Mayor keeps meeting with in public places so Brett Butler can see them together? Say, you don’t suppose there’s some illegal chemical dumping going on and that’s what’s mutating the bats and driving them, well, batty?
I broke the damn.
Vampire Bats is half nature gone amok movie and half Scooby Doo episode, albeit minus the dog, although Brett Butler does come awfully close to Scrappy Doo territory at times; sprinkled with elements of Afterschool Specials on the dangers of Ecstasy use and environmental pollution. Aside from one really nice shot of the bats flying across the moonlit sky with the wheel of a riverboat in the foreground and a few surprising bloody moments for a network television movie, there’s really not a whole lot about to recommend Vampire Bats. It isn’t a total waste of time but the movie is far more hokey than spooky and often the less than realistic bat effects, a combination of CGI and puppetry, make you wonder when The Count from “Sesame Street” is going to show up to begin counting the clichÃˆs and plot holes.
“One… Two… Two stars! ***clap of thunder, bolt of lightning*** Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!”
** out of ***** stars
As I type this first sentence, I must protest. I’ve just learned that my VCR doesn’t work with a remote any more, and it’s going to take a long time to write this review while making the VCR work manually. Why didn’t I major in engineering?
We start with a shot of a sign behind a fence. Only it’s upside-down, which makes it really hard to read. Then the camera rotates to reveal that the sign says “Mercier Town Cemetery”. We pan through the graveyard of anonymous tombstones to a small, boarded up funeral home (or maybe a church). Inside it looks much bigger than it did on the outside, so I’m guessing we’ll have a final showdown here. It’s real dusty and a large crucifix is on the altar. We pan upwards and we see a lot of bats on the ceiling. We finally see one bat that attacks the camera, in a way that’s not the least bit surprising or scary.
Cue our opening title, which turns from black to blood red. I think it’s a Halloween rule. Next we see a sign that tells us that the next montage takes place at Tate University, and that the new semester is just starting. I have no idea where Tate University is, so I’ll wait for a character to tell me. [Future Me: Actually, it’s a rather unimaginatively named college that the writers made up.] See a guy throw a Frisbee! See shirtless guys play football! See hot women walk by!
That montage only last a few seconds before we’re introduced to three students walking by. “It’s so freaken hot!” says one guy, showing more restraint in his language then most guys that age. Our trio consists of a short guy, tall hair guy, and a gal with a real short skirt. The tall hair guy points to the gal, whose name is Eden, and asks if that’s what short guy meant by hot. She responds by giving both guys a slap upside the head that would make Moe Howard proud. Short guy says something about how he regrets not going to the U of MN, so I guess this is a college in Minnesota. [Future Me: Nope, the movie takes place in Mercier, LA. It wasn’t until much later in the movie that I figured out that this was a lame joke about the weather.]
We cut to college students having an outdoor frat party. See, they have a slip and slide and beer. What more would they need? Eden sarcastically responds that she wishes she could use a beer soaked slip and slide when she grows up, and short guy sarcastically responds that she will. I think this is the movie’s way of pointing out that our trio is underage. Eden talks about how she’s disgusted at these sort of parties, and the boys sarcastically agree just to keep her calm.
We cut to the same no-name cemetery. Tall hair has a stick and is playing pretend Resident Evil as Eden laughs. Short guy mentions an abandoned barn, and tall hair comes up with a plan to buy beer with fake IDs. Eden says, “Your fake IDs never worked. Why would it suddenly start working now?” For some reason, the boys respond with a large “Ooooooooooooh!”, as if that was a really witty comeback. (Your fake IDs never worked! PWNED!) In fact, I don’t drink, so I started to think that the trio might be high school students until I remembered that the drinking age is 21.
The trio finish walking through the cemetery and talk more about what they should do together. Bowling and going to the movies is shot down. Meanwhile, the movie becomes terrifying as a man with fliers sneak up behind them. It’s an ambush by a Lyndon LaRouche supporter! Kill him before he corners you and makes you pay 3 dollars to make him go away!!! Oh, it’s just a flier for an underground rave, and it’s made clear that the man just wants Eden to show up. Eden seems charmed by this for some reason. I’ve never gone to a rave, so I’m assuming that Eden is excited about the discussions of great American literature that’s about to take place. Uh, with lots of the promised liquor, of course.
Cut to night. There’s more partying in front of a frat house, with some booze and making out here and there. It’s rather tame, and I guess as long as people are drinking beer and not soaking in it, Eden is fine with it. The man with the fliers walks up to a couple other guys and brings out a plastic bag full of cocaine. Or maybe it’s date rape drugs, since he dumps it into a trash can which is then stirred.
Our trio shows up complaining about mosquitoes. The flyer guy tells them that there’s no beer, but if they pay ten bucks they’ll get “planter’s” punch. Eden lights up to this for some reason. There’s a quick gag about how the boys get pink and purple plastic cups, and then they all get a drink, which is still being stirred inside a trash can. Also, I’m starting to get a little nervous, because it looks like Eden might be raped and I don’t want to watch this even if the bats give the rapists their comeuppance.
After a cut, we see the short guy out in the field spinning around. Then tall hair and Eden walk by, drunk or coked or whatever, and Eden rebuffs tall hair’s advances, identifying him as Aaron. One more name to go! I was worried about Eden for a second, but now it’s clear what’s going to happen next, as Eden and Aaron leave short guy behind.
Short guy hums a little until he realizes that he’s lost in the woods. He naturally walks further into the woods to make absolutely sure that he’s alone. The moon seems to be incredibly bright as he clumsily stumbles around shouting Aaron’s name. A POV shot from above tells us that short guy’s fate is sealed. Then the movie trades in the bad day-for-night shots with a confusing light source. Now the short guy seems to be illuminated from down below, which really confused me. In a wider shot, we see a light source that seems to be too bright to be the moon, but doesn’t look like a lamp. And as I said, that light seems to be too high. Actually, now there seems to be one lamp in front of the brighter light source, but the short guy is now out in some field in the middle of the forest.
Anyway, the still unnamed short guy is looking around in response to screeches. I guess his adrenalin ran out, since he now seems to be back under the influence as he looks. Or maybe he’s just scared and sweaty, but I’m leaning towards drunk. He steps in a puddle. (Where did that come from? It was suppose to be a really hot day.) The bats continue to screech, even though we still can’t see them. I guess he sees them, though, because he starts to jog away. Some music starts as if to say, “Don’t be scared! Here’s some rock music!” while the doofus trips into a puddle for no reason. Short guy rolls around in the puddle just long enough to get drenched before a POV attacks him.
We hear a scream as we cut to a student walking by a van in front of a large house. Inside the house we see a mother giving breakfast to her older child. I guess it’s been a while since I’ve seen Xena: Warrior Princess, but I wasn’t sure if this was Lucy Lawless until her husband showed up and exposited her name. Our blonde Xena is wearing shorts and a t-shirt, her hair is slightly frizzled and she’s decided to throw out some bad milk. This is to tell us what a normal person our Prof. Maddy Rierdon is. Her husband Dan identifies the kids as Rami and baby Violet.
Dan asks if Maddy is ready for another semester, presumably at Tate University. Maddy takes the opportunity to nag about how their future home isn’t ready yet and their current rental home is too hot. I rolled my eyes at this, since their rental house looked rather large, at least compared to the house I grew up in. They’ll have to stay in their huge “rental from hell” for at least 4 months. At this point the dialogue is making it clear that the heat is going to play a part in the movie. [Future Me: Sorta.]
It turns out Dan also has classes to teach, so we now have the issue of getting a babysitter. The normal one is in Guatemala for a sick aunt, so the husband suggests his sister. Maddy shoots this down because the sister is apparently a pushy control-freak. Our couple tells each other why they decided to move to Louisiana, which was apparently to be close to family and to live a simpler life. “I’m still waiting,” Maddy says, as she stands in her giant rental house as her no doubt gigantic house is being built. The husband goes to call his sister as Maddy winces.
The sister shows up. She’s played by the lead from Grace Under Fire and her name is Shelly. Yet there’s a dead short guy with no name. Maddy is clearly annoyed at Shelly’s presence as she says hi. Shelly makes her obligatory obnoxious comment about how the daughters must have built up an immune system to eat in the kitchen. Actually, it doesn’t seem that obnoxious because Maddy herself complained about how everything was still in boxes. As our couple leaves, they have a small playful moment as Maddy mocks the fact that Shelly nicknamed Dan “Sparky.”
Dan is dropped off while Maddy jokes to him about not picking up too many students. He walks into his class – E-Bio 205, “Ecosystem Ecology” in case you’re curious – as we see that all his students are women. Which is the opposite of the classes I took, but I was a computer science major. We’re not really shocked when a blonde student takes the time to ask if Dan is available, and when Dan shows off his wedding ring, the blonde steers into Inappropriate Land by stating her disappointment. The camera zooms on the blonde, so she’ll probably appear later.
In some concurrent scenes, Maddy drives away in an ugly yellow car, which I guess shows us that they blew all their money on the two huge houses and the van they have. She walks into her lab class late and identifies a few students who will probably be important. Don and Jossie are a couple who are real close, and Lizzie is a student who has her head down.
Eden and Aaron enter the classroom, and they just happen to be students that Maddy had before. That simplifies things. Eden and Aaron look really tired, and they’re wearing black. “I’m hot just looking at both of you in all those clothes,” says Maddy, which seems like a dumb thing to say. Maybe it was meant to mirror the fact that the blonde student flirted with Dan. Anyway, a student up front that looks a little like The Simpsons producer Mike Reiss finds this really funny for some reason. His name is Miles Wallach, and Prof. Rierdon takes the opportunity to insult his clothes.
“I thought this was Bio 311, not Fashion Victim 101” says a student who’s as bored with Maddy’s insult as I was. Maddy confirms that is so, and takes a few names. I’m not sure which of these students will be important, so I won’t mention them anymore except for a guy who’s named Keith and is identified as a guy who was wearing headphones. Oh, and apparently the short guy was named Jason, because we watch Eden and Aaron’s reaction when that name was called. RIP, Jason.
Maddy tells us that the name of her class is “Animal Behavior and Evolutionary Biology” before we cut to a shot of an alligator in a swamp. Then we cut to what appears to be the place where Jason was attacked. No wait, I guess not. But it is a swamp area. We see an officer and some other guy get off a swamp boat. They’re having a conversation about some troubled student who probably has nothing to do with this movie.
Anyway, the other guy turns out to be a Swamp Guide, and he saw some dead animals on a tour. The officer, probably annoyed at the swamp guide for some reason, looks at two dead deer and makes empty statements like, “Definitely attacked by something, that’s for sure,” and “Must’ve been more of one whatever-it-was (pause) to get to deer.” The deer have cuts that suggest small dinosaurs rather than bats. Swamp guide makes the officer promise to take care of the situation.
Maddy and Dan return home to a quiet house. Maddy is happy and wants to make soup (without using heat?) but gets really angry when she looks for a bowl and finds that everything in the kitchen has been rearranged like Maddy feared. The dining room table is even set. Maddy is really angry, but I don’t see why since everything looks neat. I would have been happy that there was one less thing to do when I got home. Oh, Maddy apparently likes her messes because that way she can find whatever she wants. It’s a silly territorial thing. Maybe Shelly should have asked first, but this hardly makes her obnoxious.
We cut to the officer pulling up to a deserted place and his truck says “Louisiana and Wildlife And Fisheries”. The deer carcasses are in the back of the truck, and the wildlife officer pulls them out and it’s implied that he burns them for some reason. Yes, we have a mystery to go along with the bats. Does this two hour movie really need that?
We cut again to a pier at night. It’s really dark, but you can make out two people, one with a real Scottish accent. They’re not really important, so to sum up, they’re night fishing.
We cut to the Louisiana police (I’ll refrain from making a joke) who are looking over Jason’s body. Two officers exchange ‘this is weird yet we’re police so we’ve seen everything’ dialogue before they see Jason’s body. Jason is covered with some blood and has a large wound on his face. Actually, compared to the deer, who had rather big cuts, Jason’s wounds look rather mild. I’m also confused by the one officer who brings up the probability of strangulation, since I assume that those are usually bloodless. The point of this scene is to point out that the police are going to contact Jason’s friends, and then the camera pulls upward before we cut away to our first commercial…
Oh, I guess not. We instead see the two night fishermen. I guess we had to get an attack in before we cut away, but the mystery of the deer burning and the question of how Eden and Aaron would react to Jason’s death was enough to tide us over. …Right? Anyway, the two men drive away from a really bright light source back into the dark, and we cut to the two waiting. Homer, the Scottish guy, tries to be funny by talking like a trucker into a radio. This annoys the other guy while the radio decides to stop working.
Just as Homer thinks he’s getting a bite, he hears a bat. This prompts the movie to use several small cuts before the attack, and it’s annoying. You could have created some unease by just the sound of the bats, people! This editing is not going to do it. At least we don’t get the rock music from earlier. Anyway, a bat attacks the second guy from behind, even though in some shots he’s turning around and therefore he should have seen something. Exit two unimportant characters, as we go to the commercials after a shot of a fisherman’s hat on the surface of the water.
I count just under a dozen commercials as I fast forward, including about 3-4 promos.
We return to Maddy’s class, where she has a picture of a shrimp on the projector. She mentions how they were once everywhere in the Gulf of Mexico, until a big predator ate most of them. A big predator known as pollution, or fertilizer runoff from the Mississippi which have created a hypoxic zone. Eden explains to another student that it’s a zone where chemicals deplete the oxygen so life can’t grow there. I’m only mentioning this in case it’s brought up later.
Maddy shows a map, and for some reason the hypoxic zone seems to almost border Louisiana, making it look like Louisiana’s footprint. Anyway, I’m not sure what’s the point of this, whether it’s a plot point, proof that Maddy knows stuff, or an Important Message. Maddy says that hypoxic zones are the largest growing part of man’s assault against aquatic life. Assault? Unless farmers are wickedly laughing about how their overuse of fertilizer is going to kill a lot of fish, I don’t think the intent is there.
Class is interrupted by three police officers. I swear that the guy in charge looks like El Fuego from Half Past Dead, but the IMDB is playing coy with some of the names. [Future me: Yep, it’s him.] He asks for Aaron and Eden, and Maddy looks towards them. El Fuego Cop tells them firmly that they need to come with them. Aaron rather stupidly asks why in a rude way. It’s revealed that Jason was murdered, and for some reason Maddy decides to end class and chase after them. I really don’t know why she has to get involved. It seems like a really dumb thing to do.
Cut to Maddy arguing with an officer at the precinct. She wants to talk to El Fuego Cop, despite the fact that, you know, there’s an investigation going on. El Fuego Cop just happens to walk by with the mayor, Hank Poelker, who looks a lot like the president. Maddy basically points out what friends the trio were, and El Fuego Cop points out the obvious. “What if you’re wrong!?” Maddy rather rudely asks. EFC and the mayor mention that there’s evidence, instead of telling her to buzz off. They even invite her into EFC’s office.
There Maddy gets to hear a tape recording of a call Eden made to a friend, which makes Eden and Aaron sound rather guilty. EFC also points out that Aaron and Eden had Jason’s blood on them, which I’m sure will be explained in some contrived way. We also learn that the drug was ecstasy. I’m no expert on drugs, but I guess they’re implying that while under influence of ecstasy, Eden and Aaron drained all the blood from Jason, which seems to be a stretch. I’d hate to be the D.A. who had to prosecute that case.
Maddy learns about the cuts on Jason’s face, and begs to be allowed to do an autopsy. This is really stupid. I guess they have to fit our heroine into the plot somehow.
A woman pulls Jason’s body out of the freezer, and Maddy emotes a little. She then quickly puts on the gloves and gets very interested about the bites on Jason’s face. After looking for a few seconds, she comes to the conclusion that the bites are not uniform. She mentions that the bites suggest fangs, but can’t be sure what the animal(s) are. She tells them that this at least proves that Jason wasn’t murdered by a human. The problem I have with this is that you would think that any person who was performing the autopsy could see the bite marks and notice that they didn’t look human. So I don’t see why it was important for Ms. PhD in Animal Behavior Biology to make this discovery. Other than IITS, I guess.
Maddy then asks to talk to Aaron and Eden[!]. This is really silly. How is her PhD helping now? Maddy mentions the blood found on the two of them, and Eden quickly comes up with an exclamation: mosquitoes. Uh, how much blood was found on their clothing? “You have to believe us,” Eden says. Why do you think your professor got involved in the case in the first place, you dopes? Maddy confirms that she will further get involved with something she could have easily left alone.
Cut to a newspaper with the headline “Vampires Among Us” with Aaron’s and Eden’s pictures. The newspaper turns out to be the Daily Titan. [!] Not only does the headline seem to be courting some libel torts, but it doesn’t seem egotistical enough for a college paper. Shouldn’t this story get buried under complaints about how students have the RIGHT to vandalize property after the basketball team won a game?
We get a quick annoying directorial gimmick before we see two students walk by. They’re both talking about a party they want to throw, and all the girls they’ll get. Another guy, the flier guy from earlier in the movie, appears behind them and tells them about a spot he found. They walk on a lawn, and for some reason the flier guy has taken his shirt off and is telling his friends not to stare. [!]
Flier guy leads them to what I thought was a tomb, but it’s a cover for a ladder leading into some steam tunnels. The three decide to quickly climb down before someone sees them. They walk down a hallway – and I’m not making this up – which is lit by a light blocked only by a rotating ceiling fan! Not only that, but the camera is rotating slightly to the right or left, just like the old Batman series! Or like any scene in Battlefield Earth. Let’s just say that I’m betting that my fellow reader reviewers will get a kick out of this scene.
Our current trio have climbed into an abandoned building (which has graffiti in it. Kilroy, you’ve struck again!) They kick their way into another room and we hear a flutter. One of the guys notices that the place stinks, and you’d think it would really smell bad, but apparently not enough. Other guy says that all they have to do is get rid of the dirt, and we actually see him run his fingers through (a rather small pile of) some guano. As they plan their party, we see some bats in the foreground.
We cut away from that, so I guess we’ll get back to them later. We now see Maddy and Dan getting out of the yellow car and Maddy complains that a finished roof isn’t progress enough for her. They walk towards their future house and Maddy talks about how worried she is about her students. Dan tells her not to worry since the police will take care of MAN THAT HOUSE IS COLOSSAL! AND IS THAT ALL THEIR PROPERTY? GEEZ. Dan basically tells her to mind her own business and that she has her own kids to look after.
Maddy takes this as a disguised attack on her parenting skills. Dan apologizes. They talk about their previous adventure for the Locusts fans (you know any?) and Maddy talks about how she wishes to just sit around in front of her monumental mansion and drink margaritas. “We’re in the home stretch now, honey,” which signals that it’s time for some plot complication. By the way, the movie is playing all of this completely straight.
So Maddy immediately sees a boat that has washed up behind the house. Dan gets a hook to pull it in. This is a funny scene because it was clearly going to be the boat of the two men killed before the first commercial break, but it’s implied that Dan doesn’t see the bodies until the boat is close to shore. Which is really silly, because Dan is tall enough to see the inside of the boat. This should cause trouble for Maddy due to her earlier meddling in the affairs of her students. I tried to warn her, but she didn’t listen.
Cue a dozen more commercials, including Virginian political ads, which annoy me since I live in Maryland. Don’t we have any doofuses telling us not to vote for the other doofuses in our own state?
Maddy is following EFC, demanding that he release Aaron and Eden. Uh, Maddy? You should have immediately been taken in for questioning. You should now hire a lawyer and hope that the evidence exonerates you and your students. Maddy points out that the fishermen’s wounds were identical to Jason’s. You idiot! You saw those wounds, and now you found bodies with the same marks. The police should be highly suspicious about you, and you’re chakram won’t save you now. Nearby is the man who burnt the deer. We learn that he’s “Warden Schuster, Department of Fish and Game.” He mentions that he saw the same bites on the deer, so maybe there’s no mystery. Whatever.
Mayor W shows up, and he cranks up his southern accent as he wonders aloud what happened. The same woman who was around during Maddy’s autopsy – I guess she’s someone’s assistant [Editor Ken: This is the coroner] – informs him of the situation. EFC wants to do autopsies, but Maddy for some reason tries to interrupt, saying that they should do autopsies on the deer, too. I’m not sure why, but I’m guessing her character is just somehow aware of some future plot point.
Maddy politely suggests to the mayor that The People should be alerted, and the assistant agrees, but Mayor W shoots them down (and points a finger in the assistant’s face!) The mayor makes it clear that he thinks that the two incidents are separate, that he doesn’t want to start a panic. and that the police are working on it 24/7.
I’m not sure what a politician would really do in this situation, but I can understand why he wouldn’t want to cause a panic. Would you really want to tell The Media about a problem before you knew what it was? You can see the reports now. “We don’t know what it is, but we estimate that 1,000 people are already dead, and 500,000 people may die in the next week!” [Editor Ken: Oh, come now. Like that would ever happen in Louisiana, of all places.]
Despite this, it’s implied that any future killings are partially Mayor W.’s fault. As he walks away, Maddy bends down with the assistant and notices some stuff on the fishermen’s shirts that nobody else noticed. She somehow knows that it’s guano, and someone helpfully tells us what that is. I really wish I was watching Ace Ventura 2 right now.
We cut to a dormitory, and Miles is carrying a drunken girl inside. He hands her off to some sorority sisters, which is rather gentlemanly of him. The sisters drop her off in her room, and then leave. Uh oh! We watch as she strips to her undies, and now I feel guilty for staring at the panties of a dead girl. She walks to a window which is already open to cool off, and her fate is confirmed when we hear another bat. By the way, the camera is certainly NOT showing off her bra when she goes to the window, and it’s certainly NOT showing us a shot of her butt as she climbs into bed. We see a POV of a single bat implying that drunken girl was attacked and that she was too tired to do anything.
Now we see Shelly get out of a van. And look, there’s Mayor W. walking by. And Shelly is bugging the mayor for shopping while there’s a murderer around. Can an animal be a murderer? It turns out that these two went to the same high school. Allow me to sigh at this revelation. “You know what gets me?” Shelly asks. “How the biggest weasel in high school got to be mayor.” I think this establishes that the mayor is a member of the political party or ideology opposite of Shelly, because what part of the word “politician” does she not understand?
Enough of this scene, since we are now at a river boat. We hear Maddy ask, “Faculty party on a riverboat?” WHA? I hope this isn’t being paid for by Tate students’ tuition. The mayor is there ready for a good time, but Maddy wants to sneak away. As she twirls her purse around [!], the camera moves under the docks where we can see dozens of bats. Now, earlier in the film characters could always hear a single bat flutter by. Admittedly, it’s much louder here and everyone is distracted by the party, but you think all those bats might have been heard by someone.
Maddy, Dan, and the mayor are listening to a lady (Dr. Kason) who is head of the department that Maddy and Dan teach for. Maddy makes some aside comments about how boring this woman is, and the camera even gets distracted when the mayor picks a carrot out of a tray, but she’s not any more boring then the rest of the film. Maddy also asks her about bats in Louisiana, and a couple of species are mentioned but Kason is quick to point out that the local bats are all strictly bug eaters.
Maddy asks Dan how Kason’s students stay awake, but I saw Maddy’s class earlier and her students weren’t exactly thrilled by shrimp and hypoxic zones, no matter how dramatic she made it sound. Let’s face it. Maddy isn’t coming off as very likable in this film. She’s gotten too involved with a police investigation, acted rudely to other authorities, and she’s been silently angry at her sister-in-law and the department’s head. This movie is a sequel, too, so it’s not like she’s going to realize her faults by the end of the film.
Also, this movie introduced a lot of other characters, but it’s clear that Maddy is our main focus. So why did we bother naming those earlier students? Fodder #1, Fodder #2, etc. would have sufficed. We haven’t even seen Aaron and Eden in a while. Meanwhile, we’ve seen the movie try to make Shelly look obnoxious, except when she was opposite mayor W., when she actually did come across as obnoxious. We’re at the point where it’s clear that our checker pieces are in place for an attack, and if there’s a likable character worth rooting for, I can’t think of one.
Oh look, it’s the party guys. They’re having that rave in the abandoned place. I guess this party is supposed to mirror the party on the cruise boat. Only this one seems just as expensive. I mean, where did they get all those lights?! Pardon my naivetÃˆ, but I can’t believe these three students were able to put together a party this good. They could be astronauts if they put this much effort into their school work.
The party itself is filmed in music video style as we see plenty of neon lights, twisty camera angles with gimmicky lenses, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hint at lesbians dancing. Plus there’s dozens of bats on the ceiling, yet not one person has noticed. Flier guy (How about a frikken name already?) shows up to sell drugs and then make out with a gal named Bambi. I’m not kidding about the name.
Back at the river boat, it’s now night. Or maybe it was already night at the other party. Whatever it is, there’s now a ton of people on the pier, which causes the bats to fly out into the night. It seems that nobody sees them, which is ridiculous.
Back to the students’ underground party, where a very funny scene takes place. The other two guys who planned the party are DJs, and some women are dancing nearby and shooting glances at them. One of the guys tells the other to “kick it up a notch.” For some reason, we next see the dancers dancing at a sped-up rate. Benny Hill, we’ll always remember your contributions to cinema!
Back to the river boat as a captain yells “All aboard!” A horn is blown several times, which only makes the bats angry. It’s also much darker, which means that the bats have been circling around for some time, and yet still nobody has seen them. This must be the one night in the world where nobody decided to stare at a full moon.
Back to flier guy, and we now learn that his name is Mickey. I guess he doesn’t have long to live, especially since he’s now conveniently coked out of his mind. Back to river boat party, where Dan and Maddy are rolling their eyes at the mayor’s praise of Dr. Kason. We’ve only seen Dr. Kason for two scenes now, so I can’t see how we’re suppose to dislike her in any way. A rude quip from Dan seems to confirm that Dan and Maddy are just jealous. Besides, didn’t you two want to settle down? Why are you acting like adolescents around a woman just because she got to go to some made-up Asian country to look at owls while you two started a family?
The four hear that familiar bat fluttering noise, and Maddy intuits that there’s hundreds of bats flying in front of the moon. She reacts by calmly trying to get the party goers downstairs. It’s interesting that she didn’t just yell “BAAAAATS!” while pointing at the air, since earlier it was the mayor who was a jerk because he didn’t want to cause a panic. Oh well.
Back at underground party, we see that there are now hundreds of bats on the ceiling. Does everybody in this movie have a bad neck? A simple stray look upwards would have made these people look a lot less dumb.
Finally, we get to some big bat attacks. Funny how killer animals always start small early in a movie, and then attack large groups of people later on. Although for some reason, many of the river boat guests look more puzzled then afraid. LOOK UP, YOU MORONS! Maybe this is meant to be a subtle gag, since these people are as blind as a bat.
The attacks are executed by the same annoying twisty camera angles, only this time CGI bats are super-imposed on the screen. So no one is really in danger unless a prop bat attacks them, like the waiter who flings himself onto a table. I guess there were a couple bats who tripped him while the first bat pushed. One woman trips and spends a few seconds feeling for her glasses. It would have been more terrifying if she was trampled in the bat attack, but here she acts like Velma before some bats bite her. The prop bats are at least somewhat convincing compared to the cartoon bats flying around randomly.
Some more stuff happens. Mickey is bitten to death in the most graphic death so far. In fact, the bats are leaking a lot of blood over his shirt, despite the fact that Jason wasn’t so bloody earlier. With the way Mickey’s eyes are rolled back, it’s probably the scariest thing in the movie, although it’s still shown with annoying twisty camera angles. It doesn’t help that we didn’t care about this guy, or the fact that we also cut back and forth between this and the comic relief Dr. Kason. A bat actually gets stuck in her bun (THEY’RE IN HER HAIR!) and she dives overboard for no reason.
Before we cut to the next string of commercials, we see a shocked Maddy looking out through a window to see a really bad CGI effect of the bats flying around. Some of those bats must have hurt their noses from slamming into the window. Maddy and Dan give each other an “It’s happening again” nod.
13 more commercials air, although one is repeated so I’m not sure if that counts.
We must be through hour one, since a caption reinforms us that this movie is in high definition. We return to Tate University to a news report. As various students walk by with suitcases, the reporter mentions that witnesses described the scenes as “terrifying” and “surreal”, even though Mickey was the only casualty of the underground party. She concludes that, “Residents watch, wait and wonder about when and where the next attack my occur.” Vote in our online poll today! At least residents now know what they shouldn’t be scared of, say, dogs, or toasters, or tornados, or cults, or drinking water, or fingernails, or …
Now we get Mayor W. followed by hostile reporters. One asks him why the bats are attacking people, but he doesn’t know. Duh, it just happened and it’s not like he has some spies to find out if the animal world is waiting to attack us. The mayor mentions that he’s going to impose a curfew for a few weeks, which causes some angry shouting. They want Action, but I’m not sure what they expect. Is the mayor supposed to hang a giant net up? One woman claims that the curfew will hurt her bar, but I doubt it will be affected as badly as she claims.
The mayor tries to quickly end the press conference and promises that he’ll get back to everybody, and then walks into his oval office. Maddy barges in at the last second, and yet she’s not arrested. Maddy asks what the big plan is, and officer Schuster, with a toothpick in his mouth [!], talks down to her as southernly as he can.
The plan is to poison the bats, which might be hard since bats can fly around, but since these aren’t superbats (maybe), a strong enough poison might do the job. Oh, Schuster explains that the poison will coat the bats, and grooming will do them in. Basically it’s the roach motel method of pest control. Maddy wants to collect the bats and study them. To sum this scene up, the mayor who looks like W. wants to Kill the Bats and Kill Them Now!, while our heroine wants to get to the Root Problem (which may be environmental). GET IT?!?!
The mayor is finally fed up with Maddy and leaves, and we cut to Maddy’s next class. Lizzie turns out to be one of the girls at the party. Oh, and one of the guys who planned the underground party is Keith, which I didn’t realize till now. He and Lizzie seem to be a couple now. Maddy shows up and the movie steers into Captain Planet territory as Maddy teaches how man has done mean stuff which has forced animals to live elsewhere. Bats have gotten a bad rap, although you’d think they’d get a worse reputation after this incident. Aaron and Eden are given an ovation as they’re reintroduced to the plot.
At Dan’s class, which is taking place in a much different classroom and has some male students, so it must be the lecture. Except Dan is telling the class to open their textbooks to a certain page, and I don’t remember professors ever lecturing out of the book, so maybe it’s a discussion class. Except discussion classes are done by TAs, so I’m confused. Anyway, the blonde flirty student, who I guess is the drunken girl from earlier, is now vomiting. And her name is Rebecca, in case you care.
The movie doesn’t since it cuts to Shelly and her boyfriend at a smoky looking bar/restaurant called Rivershack. For some reason, the mayor is there talking to someone else. After they leave, Shelly asks a waitress about who the mystery guy is. He is Brian Reuben from a waste disposal company (Carbide). The mayor makes sure to look as suspicious as possible as the camera tilts slightly. It’s Current Affair-tastic!
Maddy is at the end of her lecture, and her students seem to be completely mesmerized. Maybe the power is not mine, but I can only imagine how boring such a lecture would be, unless it was dressed up a little. The class actually volunteers to help catch bats, and Maddy responds by telling them that Rebecca had rabies.
Since the Dan and Maddy classroom scenes always happened close together, I had assumed that they happened at the same time. [Editor Ken: Yes, this did seem to be the gist of things.] In fact, Maddy starts her little speech about the environment, THEN we cut to the scene where Rebecca vomits, so I don’t know how Maddy knew this. This scares Don and Jossie off (and they had so many great scenes!), but the rest of the class stays. Keith really wants to catch one, so I’m guessing he’s going to go crazy and die during an attempt.
Maddy is able to get away from the rest of the students, but that night as she tries to unload a goat from her van, Lizzie, Eden, Miles, Keith, and Aaron show up. (I was hoping that Maddy was going to be arrested for violating the curfew.) She accepts their offer to help after they all produce papers proving that they were vaccinated against rabies. The plan is to tie the goat to a tree under some nets. Miles has nothing to do, so he’s given a chance to have a trait, which is he doesn’t want to see the goat get hurt. See? He’s not completely worthless.
We have a cut, so I guess some time passed. Aaron complains, and Lizzie questions why they’re still standing around. These six must be fun to hang out with! Maddy gives the obligatory “Because we’re scientists!” response. She also says that Eden proposed a theory, but I backed up the tape and it just sounded like Eden regurgitated what Maddy was telling them. That’s not a defense that’s going to save you when the police arrest you for violating curfew, Maddy.
Flutter flutter. Lizzie hears a bat, and for once, someone looks up and sees a bat. They only see one bat in a tree, or maybe they see a lot of bats and the movie only shows us one. Either way, they seem to freak out too easy at this, and race to the van. (Way to not keep your windows up, Maddy!) We see hundreds of bats in the windshield’s reflection. Where did those come from? In fact, why was Maddy doing this in this field anyway? Was this really a strategic location?
Anyway, we immediately cut from their terror in the van to the unharmed goat. There could have been a terrifying scene of the bats throwing themselves against the van, but nooooo! This cut undermines that. We now see that several bats are caught in the web. There’s also a quick line about how lucky the goat is. I’ll say! Maddy examines some of the bats, and finds out that they have an extra set of fangs. She’s not sure what this means (genetic enhancements?) but this establishes that we have ourselves some super bats. Which we kind of guessed from the premise.
Back from the commercials, we have another quick montage on campus. People are selling ‘anti-bat sprays’ and ‘Got blood?’ t-shirts, which I bet the film crew wore as a gag. The Daily Titan has a headline that says “Rabid Vampire Bats Infect Campus Coed”. Come on, where’s the arrogance? That’s not even close to a college newspaper headline.
Uh, anyway we’re now looking at some captured bats in Maddy’s class. EFC and Schuster give Maddy and her Merry Students a talking to, but don’t punish them in any way. Maddy reveals that the bats have twice as many fangs as normal, and they’re some kind of mutation. Schuster reveals that he has the poison along with them in a bag, and Maddy says, “I strongly advise against using the slash and burn approach.” I really got angry at Maddy at this point. Bury your self-righteousness, lady. I haven’t hated Xena this much since her trip to India.
EFC says that he has to confiscate the bats for evidence. GOOD! Maddy counters by saying that she has friends in Washington, and EFC folds by taking only half the bats. Dang. Schuster wants to put tags on the bats to find out where their lair is so they can all be destroyed. Maddy points out that they might not have a single lair. GET IT!?!?
Schuster pulls up in his truck somewhere in some forest. He sprays some poison on three bats before releasing them, and he’s lucky they don’t attack him. The bats fly all the way to, of all places, Maddy’s mansion. Oh, darn. I’m so disappointed. Too bad for Maddy, huh?
We now see Maddy and Dan listening to the assistant from earlier as she explains that there have been more dead deer. You would think so. Assistant reveals a deer and mentions that the bite marks are consistent with earlier bat attacks, but there’s also a chemical present in the deer. It’s identified as hexaclorobenzene, a chemical released from fire fights and military exercises or “anything with a high heat combustion.” Maddy gets a light bulb moment and decides to investigate Carbide.
We cut to the waste disposal facility, which is the same area where Schuster burnt the deer early in the film. This must be Act 3! Maddy and Dan arrive with the 5 Scoobies. There’re some lame gags here, but I did chuckle when a couple guys pulled their hoods over their heads. This scene progresses slowly but eventually they find a pipe which is leaking all kinds of foul smelling pollutants into the local water supply. (Bats bite the deer, and this causes the bats to become super vampire bats. Got that?) Oh, when will people learn that looting and polluting is not the way? Maddy takes a sample before a swamp boat scares them away. Cue the largest amount of commercials yet.
We return to Maddy carrying the broom that she keeps in her van while she accompanies Schuster, who is tracking the bat with a PDA. They walk up to the mansion, which I guess isn’t Maddy’s. Now I’m truly disappointed. The bats are all dead, and when Maddy questions this, Schuster says that, “Technology never lies.” As a CS major, I must say that this is 100% true. Don’t believe otherwise!
The Daily Titan now reads, “Vampire Bat Crisis Averted.” There’s another quick montage where we find out that Rebecca is ok. Then it’s nighttime where we spend more time with the Planeteers. The bats are in a cage under a blanket and Aaron is feeding them with some pig’s blood. Lizzie complains some more, which is all she does. Keith gives a little speech about how hard they’ve been working, so he decides to turn on a boom box. Uh, guys? Noise, bats? Hello? All but Miles dance to some generic song, until there’s some feedback. The bats start shrieking. Our gang is now very worried and they slowly tiptoe to the cage. Eden reaches for the blanket and … OH MY GOD! IT’S A BAT!!! Tune in next week where they find out what’s in the hamster cage.
We see Don and Jossie (uh oh!) and they’ve sneaked into an old professor’s place. There is a pool and Don reminds us of the heat. So why where the Planeteers wearing jackets earlier? We have a cheap scare when the camera stays tight on Jossie’s face as Don returns from turning on the lights, and then we watch as Jossie strips to her undies. Hey, it’s a crowd pleaser. They swim around and make out, until Jossie decides that she prefers the lights off. (Uh oh!)
Don disappears out of Jossie’s sight, and we get a clichÃˆd scene where she thinks he’s playing a joke but we know he’s getting killed. She finally sees a bat and dives underwater for a few seconds before resurfacing, where she finds her boyfriend is under attack. Actually, to be fair, this is a little scary, because Jossie keeps going under water and holds her breath as much as she can, and you can see how terrifying this could be.
The attack on Don is silly since he doesn’t even try to jump in the pool in a desperate attempt to get rid of the bats, but as far as Jossie is concern this works. At least until she surfaces the final time and sees that Don is dead in the pool. This raises two questions. How in the world did she not feel him jump in right behind her? Second, did the bats push Don into the water, or did he jump?
Maddy and Dan are speaking about their illegal find to the no-name assistant. They explain their theory that pollution is leading to vampire bats. The assistant asks if hexaclorobenzene can cause this, even though it was the assistant who earlier brought that issue up. Shelly interrupts their conversation and gives them the important connection between the mayor and the waste disposal facility. Those…diabolical…fiends! Maddy then takes a phone call and learns about Don’s death.
The next day Maddy walks to her class but finds her students out in the hall. They have set up a few speakers inside and an audio mixing board outside. The bats have also been released, so I guess there’s no class today. These knuckleheads have finally made the connection between bats and sound. On a related note, I remember one time I was playing the Legend of Zelda, and this door was blocked off. I tried everything. I opened a treasure chest, but all I found was a bomb. I asked an old man, but all he said was, “Bomb the door.” I tried pushing on the crumbled wall, but nothing happened. It wasn’t until I dropped my ham sandwich on the bomb button when I finally figured out what to do.
Keith demonstrates their discovery by turning on different speakers in sequence. The bats attack each speaker in turn. “Bats guide themselves by sonar, right?” Well, only if they’re underwater. “They’re attracted to the sound we created.” Oh sure, except bats aren’t attracted to their high pitched noises. They give one off and react to them when they’re reflected. You can have an elementary knowledge of bats and be smarter than this group. Maddy calls this brilliant, which means she never saw Beginning of the End. Maddy asks how they’re going to get the bats back into the cage, and Keith turns on the speaker inside it. The bats fly into it, and the cage shuts on them, even though we can see one cartoon bat isn’t inside. Oops. This gives Maddy an idea.
Some shots from the beginning of the movie are recycled and we see Shelly and Maddy’s kids are outside the Rivershack. Mayor W. shows up for no reason there than for Shelly to tell him what a jerk he is. The mayor gets really angry and tells her to get into his car, which seems really dumb for both sides. The waitress witnesses this.
Schuster pulls up to the cemetery from the beginning of the movie and enters the church. He walks over some dead bats until he hears that there’s still many more. He looks up at the ceiling, and it looks too blurry to make out any bats until it’s too late. Commercial time.
We return to see that Schuster is not dead, and he’s talking to EFC, Dan, and Maddy and her students about what to do. Schuster suggests fire, but that’s shot down because the church has historic value. Plus, as you’ll remember, bats can move around.*[Editor Ken: Well, burning down Houston killed all the bees in The Swarm, and.… Oh, wait. No, it didn’t. It hardly killed any bees at all. Never mind.]
Keith suggests luring the bats to the steam tunnels that led to the abandoned building where he had partied. EFC tells us that Keith is lucky that the University hadn’t released enough steam down there. This becomes the Big Plan, as it’s decided that the best way to kill the bats is to lure them down there and steam them to death. So did the bats adapt to the poison? Whatever. Maddy decides to execute their plan tonight since it’s a full moon. Which is a coincidence, because every other time we saw the moon it was full. I hope they special thanked Tony Zarindast.
Maddy and Dan return to their rental home and they find Shelly’s cell phone. I assumed that maybe the mayor put it there to contact Maddy when she returned home, but Shelly must have just forgotten it. Karl, Shelly’s boyfriend, calls and tells Maddy that Shelly is late for a date. For some reason, Dan and Maddy have not heard of Karl, but this isn’t important to the plot. Karl was supposed to meet Shelly at the The Rivershack. Some quick sleuthing reveals that Shelly is with the mayor, so Maddy and Dan head to the mayor’s office to find…
In a genuine surprise, the mayor is not evil. Despite his resemblance to the president and the film’s environmental politics so far, the mayor was not covering up the pollution, but in fact had a conversation with a whistleblower (Brian Reuban, the mystery guy in the Rivershack). I have to give this film credit for leading you to think that this character would turn out to be a bad guy until now. Anyway, W. had started an investigation against Carbide, but put it on hold due to the bats. He suspects that some local authority was bribed to keep the EPA from learning about the pollutants. Hmm, that means it could be any one of the one character in this movie who could fit this description.
In the meantime the police and Maddy’s students have been setting up the speakers in the graveyard and in the steam tunnels. Maddy and Dan show up and Miles hands the broom to Maddy. [!] It’s not a broadsword, but I guess they’re trying. Dan goes to the university nuclear plant while Maddy goes into the steam tunnels to pick up Schuster. Armed with a walkie talkie and a broom, it’s time for Maddy’s showdown!
Schuster is finishing some wires when Maddy finds him, and you can tell by his face that he’s in crazy mode. Schuster and Maddy mention how glad they’ll be to kill these bats, and Schuster says, “You know it’s like what you said, professor. Global warming will catch up with us.” As a matter of fact, I don’t think global warming was mentioned once in this film, but thanks for shoehorning THAT issue in. [Editor Ken: A quick line of dialogue, easily missed, establishes that he was mocking Maddy’s environmental beliefs, which in itself was enough to prove him the bad guy.] Maddy is now aware that Schuster is the crooked official, and she slooowly takes off so Schuster can handcuff her to the wall.
Here’s the conclusion. The speakers first lure all the bats to the cemetery, and then into the tunnel. Schuster convinces Dan to release the steam as he holds a hand over Maddy’s mouth. Schuster plans to leave Maddy behind but Maddy uses her broom to trip and knock him out. Maddy reaches for his keys and tries to wake Schuster before she takes off. We watch as Maddy runs towards the camera as not-so-hot steam blows at her and cartoon bats do no harm. Maddy escapes (with her broom!) and closes a gate just in the knick of time! Exit all bats and Schuster to boot.
The fact that I’m only using one paragraph for this finale should tell you how uninteresting it is.
After all the talk about how bats were hard to kill since they may have more than one lair, it’s implied that ALL the bats perished here, even though we see a lot less bats then during earlier attacks. I’ll volunteer to paint the “New Democracy Here” sign if it will help win the War on Terror.
Maddy is pulled out of a steam vent, and all she needs is a drink. Maddy and Dan hug. Miles ends up with Eden, in case you cared. Our final scene is in front of Maddy’s mansion. Dan and Maddy play with the girls, and Shelly is playing croquet with the mayor. I guess they got together. So much for two-scene Karl. Maddy stares out into space, knowing that now that she speechified to her students, they’ll do all the environmental work while she gets to live a simple life. Cue Credits.
There’s not much else to say about the movie. Maddy is a designated hero, and this film borrows heavily from Jaws with the solution from Beginning of the End. The attacks rely on too much twisty camera angles and cartoon bats, and only two scenes are successful at being somewhat scary. The attacks occur due to various reasons. The college students are mostly forgettable. I wish I had taped and reviewed Locusts, since that movie supposedly had a threat on a much larger scale. A small town attack would require more focus on characters, but I didn’t find too many people to root for. I’m just glad that I won’t have to hear from Maddy till the next animal attack. We’ll always have the first three seasons of Xena.
I would like to thank two English major friends of mine for helping me to remember a few things I forgot, and to discuss Maddy’s role as a teacher. You ladies are great!
First of all, I feared that since Vampire Bats takes place in Louisiana, it would be preceded by some kind of lame disclaimer like the one on the series premiere of ABC’s underwhelming Invasion, warning overly “sensitive” viewers that they might be traumatized by some vague parallel to Hurricane Katrina. Thankfully, that turned out not to be the case.
We open with an establishing shot of the “Mercier Town Cemetery”, which starts with the camera upside down and then rights itself just because hey, it looks cool. (I’ve also come to suspect that this was intended as a rip-off of the Tears for Fears montage in Donnie Darko, but I digress…) The next thing we see are lame establishing scenes of the campus of Tate University where drunken jackasses have completely overrun everything. Oh, I get it- this movie’s a documentary! A group of vapid freshmen cut through the cemetery while discussing a scheme to obtain liquor with fake IDs and go to an “underground rave”. (Hmmm, could this be setting up the film’s SUBTEXT?) Once the rave is under way, this one drunken kid named Jason Ortiz wanders off from the crowd and gets lost. Needless to say, he becomes the first victim of the currently offscreen bats.
Gear shift! Cut to Maddy Rierdon (Lucy Lawless) and her husband Dan and kids in a boringly domestic scene that eventually introduces Maddy’s sister-in-law Shelly. We subsequently learn that Dan is teaching some kind of college class about ecosystems. In Maddy’s own class, “Animal Behavior and Evolutionary Biology”, it’s established that Jason Ortiz is absent for the first time ever. (Dun dun DUNNN!)
This is immediately followed by a brief scene of some dead deer being found by Fish and Wildlife officers, drained of blood through neck wounds. (Dun dun DUNNN!) After yet another domestic interlude, the guy who examined the dead deer pours gasoline over the corpses. Then Jason’s corpse is found, right after the too-quick establishment of a Scottish wannabe fisherman played by late-night talk show host Craig Ferguson. Then we cut back to Craig and the actual fishermen he’s hired to indulge his delusions of macho he-man status, both of whom get killed by the bats right before the first commercial break.
Maddy is then shown giving a lecture about brown shrimp having become less common in the Gulf of Mexico due to “commercial overfishing” and a “dead zone”, only to be interrupted by sheriff’s deputies arresting a few of her students on suspicion of the “murder” of Jason Ortiz. Conveniently, the town’s mayor (named Poelker) is also on hand so Maddy can bitch at both him and the sheriff in person. The mayor rationalizes arresting the students on the grounds that they had Ecstasy in their systems, which according to him can make its users “completely psychotic”, but also on the more reasonable grounds that they had traces of Jason’s blood on themselves.
Maddy is soon given a chance to examine Jason’s corpse in person, and determines that he was bitten by “an animal with fangs”. (Dun dun DUNNN!) One of the arrested students explains to Maddy that the reason Jason’s blood was found on the suspects is because “we were all swatting mosquitoes off each other”. (As Dana Carvey’s Church Lady used to say: “Well isn’t that conveeenient?”)
This is followed by expository dialogue of some frat boy types expressing the desire to throw a “kick-ass campus-wide party”. The token black frat boy leads his friends into an abandoned steam tunnel while spouting clichÃˆd ‘hip-hop’ expressions, which eventually culminates in them entering an old sewage chamber, which they figure would be the perfect setting for the promised kick-ass party. Dan finally makes a reference to “that whole locust thing”, i.e., the movie that preceded this one. Right after this, a boat containing the mortal remains of Craig Ferguson and his rented fishing buddy conveniently washes up right next to Mr. and Mrs. Xena’s lakefront house.
Maddy demands that the accused students be released because the dead fishermen have the same wounds as Ortiz. Mayor Poelker proceeds to shamelessly cast himself in the role of the mayor from Jaws, refusing to authorize a thorough investigation in order to avoid “hysteria”. Then a drunken sorority girl gets literally carried home by her boyfriend, and ‘wackily’ cuts a long, loud fart. Drunken Sorority Girl lies on the bed with the windows open, followed by ominous squeaking sounds that segue into yet another padding scene with members of Maddy’s extended family.
Next, Maddy herself shows up at a faculty party being held on a riverboat. One female professor blithers about how she once went to Suriname to study the “Asian wood owl”, (Um, isn’t Suriname in South America?) and Maddy asks her something about the predatory habits of bats. At the same time, the Kick-Ass Party™ is getting underway in the stinky sewer chamber. Then an Ecstasy dealer makes a sale (SUBTEXT alert!), followed by some monotonous dancing to lame techno-dance music. (Yeah, I know that’s redundant…)
Back on the riverboat, Maddy is distracted from her important schmoozing and ass-kissing duties by the sound of an ominous flock of bats off in the distance. In a fit of panic, Maddy starts yelling at everyone to go downstairs and take cover, while the bats also make an appearance at the Kick-Ass Party™. The bats then proceed to start sucking blood from various drunk and/or stoned college kids, while a Godfather Part II-wannabe intercut montage reveals that much the same thing is happening at the faculty party.
Back from more commercials, a TV reporter details the aftermath of the parallel bat attacks, followed by Mayor Poelker being mobbed during a press conference and then announcing that he’s instituting a mandatory dusk-to-dawn curfew. Maddy gets a personal audience with the mayor, where she asks “What’s your plan?”, which he answers by spouting clichÃˆs about “common sense”. Mayor Poelker wants to kill all the bats, but Maddy protests on the grounds that they need to be studied in order to prove her smug assumption that “something environmental” has triggered their behavior.
Maddy explains to her students that that natural habitat for vampire bats is from South America to Mexico, and that normally vamp bats suck small amounts of blood from animals without killing them. Meanwhile in Dan’s class, Drunken Sorority Girl starts literally foaming at the mouth in mid-lecture. At a bar in town, Mayor Poelker is observed chatting with someone from a “waste disposal company” called “United Carbide Management”. (Dun dun DUNNN!) It’s established that there are no caves in the Mercier area, so the bats’ lair might have been the abandoned sewer thingy where the Kick-Ass Party™ took place.
A group of Maddy’s students really want to go help her find the bats’ lair, but she initially refuses until discovering that they’ve all gotten rabies shots for that express purpose. Maddy lets out a goat named Sheneneh (yes, as in that goofball character from the sitcom Martin) as bait for the bats while they all stand around waiting for said bats to show up. When they finally get a chance to observe some bats up close, Maddy observes that they have an “extra set of fangs”.
Back on campus, ‘Batmania’ of a sort has set in amongst the goofball students, as evidenced by a stand selling “Anti-Bat Spray”. Maddy then exposits that the mutant bats are now able to tear flesh and suck more blood due to their excessive amount of fangs. She then threatens some deputies who try to confiscate the captured bats by mentioning that she has “friends in Washington” (yet another Locusts callback), so they only take half the bats.
The camera then follows a bat back to the bats’ lair in an abandoned church. A scientist explains to Mr. and Mrs. Xena that the bats have “hexachloral benzene” in their systems, which is a apparently a chemical used in firefighting and “military exercises”. (Dun dun DUNNN!)
Mr. and Mrs. Xena and the assorted students embark on another nocturnal bat search, where they encounter a spot along the river where deer seem to be congregating to drink, leading to the theory that the bats are getting the chemical into their systems through deer blood. So that explains the whole mystery of the mutant vampire bats…well, except for how they ended up in Louisiana in the first place, which the film never gets around to explaining. Our heroes are then confronted by rent-a-cops on a boat who demand that they cease trespassing on private property. (Dun dun DUNNN!)
Back from the commercials, Maddy and a Fish and Wildlife official search the old church, then we cut back to campus for a pointless techno-dance music montage. Then some students fart around in the lab where the captured bats are being kept, and they put on yet more lame “electronica” (right in the lab?) which somehow enrages the bats. (Oh, that just means vampire bats have good taste in music.)
The scene then shifts to a semi-drunk student couple running around outside an absent professor’s empty house in a “cutely” amorous manner. They then take a dip in the prof’s pool, only to be greeted by yet more ominous squeaking. (Dun dun DUNNN!) The girl then proceeds to wonder where her boyfriend Donnie has gotten himself to, only to see him being set upon by bats. She then screams “OH GOD!!!” at the sight of Donnie’s corpse floating in the pool.
Shelly cuts in on a conversation Maddy is having and mentions that she saw Mayor Poelker having lunch with the United Carbide Management guy. A bit after that, Shelly confronts Mayor Poelker about his shady meeting with the United Carbide Management dude (and also makes a rather strange suggestion that Poelker was once a notorious juvenile delinquent), then he engages in what looks like a forcible abduction of her and Maddy’s kids when she brings up the chemical pollution.
Maddy, the students and the deputies all settle on an anti-bat scheme of using crappy music to lure the bats into the steam tunnels and releasing enough steam into the tunnels to kill all the bats. Mayor Poelker delivers some exposition about how the United Carbide Management guy was actually a whistleblower who warned him about the company’s defiance of EPA guidelines.
Back on campus, the finishing touches are being put on the bat-killing scheme. The Fish and Wildlife guy then grabs Maddy and handcuffs her to a rail, after subtly letting it slip that he’s in cahoots with United Carbide Management. Fish and Wildlife guy radios to the students that it’s time to release the steam, just before he tries to run away in time to save his own hide. Conveniently, Maddy manages to break free of the handcuffs just as Fish and Wildlife Guy is waylaid by bats, and presumably killed by them and/or the steam. Finally, we get a “heartwarming” domestic scene at Mr. and Mrs. Xena’s house. The End…or is it? MUHUHAHAHA!!!
Moan. Oh, woe is me … where’s the aspirin? I feel like the day after the night before, but I didn’t spend the night before carousing – I watched Vampire Bats instead. That was a bad choice on my behalf.
Now, you might ask – “It’s a B movie about vampire bats. MUTANT vampire bats. What could go wrong?” Well, among many other things, it’s boring. And implausible. And, to top it off, a movie that has enough good things in it that you hate it because of how close it came to actually being watchable. Spring Break Shark Attack was silly, but it wasn’t irritating like this one.
Possibly, of course, my boredom comes from the fact that I’m not afraid of bats. People, they’re basically mice with wings – they’re not up with leopards and spitting cobras. Most are harmless creatures, even useful in the numbers of insects they eat. Vampire bats have taken to a more parasitic lifestyle, but they’re not really dangerous most of the time. They don’t suck blood, by the way; they feed by nicking the skin and lapping up the blood. A large number of bites might become dangerous, because their saliva is anticoagulant, and occasionally cattle or other livestock in heavily infested areas die of blood loss or debilitation. Of course, the much better known hazard is that some of them carry rabies. Anyone bitten by a bat, vampire or other, should immediately get rabies shots – once the symptoms start, you’re toast (only one person in the US has been reported to recover once symptoms appeared). And the symptoms are horrible – one of my roommates, a medical student, couldn’t sleep for a week after being shown a film from the 30’s of rabies sufferers. Apparently “suffer” is the operative word with rabies.
However, non-rabid bats are pretty far down the list of dangers to humans. So, when the movie tries its best to scare me, or at least creep me out, I’m going “Aww, cute!”. This is probably not the reaction the producers of a horror film were hoping for.
One other point I’ll make before I start – unlike many movies, this one has a reasonably good idea of what a college classroom looks like. They even avoid “technobabble” where possible, using real terminology and chemical names. So, I’d imagine that at least one person in the production has been to university. Just not terribly recently, I’d imagine. However, no one here has ANY clue how government, on any level, works. I doubt that they knew enough to get permits for filming on location.
So, here’s my point-by-point summary:
We start with what someone clearly thought was a clever opening – an upside-down church sign. Did someone put the film in upside down? No, it’s a reference to bats, get it? Bats roost upside down. But… but this is outside, not in a bat roost. Is the bat flying upside down? Never mind.
We get a traveling shot through the cemetery, to abandoned and abandoned church – Our Lady of the Sorrows. Perhaps she watches movies like this?
Pan up, to a roof full of bats. One drops from the ceiling with a squeak, as we switch to the title, Vampire Bats. And yes, it does slowly fill in blood-red. Apparently, no clichÃˆ shall remain unturned.
Next, we switch to a daylight scene at “Tate University”, as trendily dressed students walk past in the summer sun. Apparently Tate has two programs – an “Honors Program” and “Women’s Studies”. This must be one tiny university. I’m not sure where the biology program that is so critical to the plot comes in. The whole scene, with shirtless fratboys and bikini-clad girls looks like “Spring Break Shark Attack” crowd has come back on campus.
A frathouse sign announces “Never to Hot to Party”. Apparently, this is the jock frat, where spelling is optional.
A “Special Appearance by Brett Butler” is advertised – be still my heart! I’m not sure what this says about Ms Butler’s career at this time.
Two sk8terbois and one sk8tergrrrl wander by. They scoff at the antics of the frats.
The skaters are apparently frosh, as they walk THROUGH THE CEMETERY while talking about hitting bars with fake ids. Well, at least the casting is appropriate – I’d card them, if I was a bouncer. And yes, this means that there is an abandoned church and graveyard right next to the campus.
A clean-cut but obviously Mephistophelean character gives the skaterdudes fliers for an “underground rave”. Tate may appear to be a bayou backwater, but it’s a happenin’ place, man!
Now it’s night – apparently at the rave, although acid house music and flashing lights are absent (meaning, I suppose, it’s probably a more realistic rave than normally appears on screen – but don’t worry, we’ll see them at the NEXT rave). Mephisto and a couple of henchmen produce – a bag of white powder! Ooh, they’re BAD PEOPLE. Mephisto dumps about a half-pound of the stuff into a drum and stirs it, making me think I’m watching “The Jonestown Story”.
Skaterdudes are complaining about mosquitoes. I think that’s an irony alert.
The rave is being held at a southern mansion that resembles Tara. Later on, we learn that they’ve crashed a vacant property. I’m rather scared to think how cheap property values must be if an apparent 10 bedroom mansion can’t even be rented out.
Skaterdudes indulge in what they think is Planter’s Punch. Soon, they’re wandering the grounds, babbling as Tall Skaterdude tries ineffectively to put the moves on Female Skaterdude.
Short Skaterdude meanwhile wanders into the mists of … well, we can still hear music from the party, but it LOOKS like Tarzan’s Jungle, which appears to be inhabited by ninja Elephant Ear plants. He starts to freak out when he hears THE FLITTERING OF DOOM, and various squeaks from above.
THRILL as Short Skaterdude steps in a puddle with his tennis shoes! I hate when that happens!
Short Skaterdude finally falls into a puddle and screams, as he stares up into a … POV SHOT. Fadeout.
SWITCH TO … a kitchen where a woman in shorts and top is feeding an indeterminate number of kids. Hey … it’s Lucy Lawless! Now, I’ll give her and the movie some credit – she’s not doing the glamour queen route. She’s actually dressed like someone getting breakfast for the family on a hot, muggy day. Hubby comes out of the shower, looking decidedly more glamorous. Apparently, they’re both profs, and the house is a rental as they finish their own home. There’s apparently some friction regarding sister-in-law, who Lucy doesn’t want babysitting. (Note: apparently, Lucy’s playing the same character she did in the “Locusts” movie, but not much is made of this. I guess she’s kind of like Jessica Fletcher – nature keeps going crazy around her, but nobody feels it’s polite to scream at her to move as far away from them as possible.)
Brett Butler plays the ditsy middle-aged sister-in-law. And actually does a pretty good job. In fact, I’d say one of the strengths of this movie is the acting – it’s B-movie, but solid.
I note a rather dizzying “cinema veritÃˆ” style of shooting in the kitchen. It does contribute to making the scene feel sticky and claustrophobic. Also rather nauseating. Later on, the director will try a few other tricks, like speeding up the film rate at the start of crowd scenes, which doesn’t make much sense, but must have made him feel “artistic”.
On campus, we see that Hubby teaches “E-Bio 205 – Ecosystem Ecology”. Could it be more E-centric if it tried?
Lucy seems to know all her students already – don’t people ever, like, pass her course? She teaches “Animal Behavior and Evolutionary Biology”. A strangely unrelated combination.
Apparently Hubby is the campus hunk – shots of simpering girls galore. Funny, in my day, the sexpots avoided Bio – didn’t want to get their hands dirty dissecting rats. One of them asks if Hubby is seeing anyone – when he says he’s married with 2 kids, she slyly mutters “how unfortunate.” Ladies and gentlemen, we have batbait. I repeat, we have spotted batbait. Strange, of course, that his wife’s class isn’t filled with guys lusting for Lucy.
Surviving Skaterdudes show up in Lucy’s class. Lucy notes that Short Skater Dude is missing, although he “didn’t miss a class all last semester”. What frosh ever went to ALL their classes? I conclude he really had the hots for Lucy.
MEANWHILE – a swamp tour operator is taking a Hunky Game Warden (HGW) to see a dead dear near the rave site. “It’s been attacked by sumptin’, that’s fo’ sure!” (PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE alert! PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE alert!).
HGW … cremates the deer?
OH DEAR LORD THE HORROR – an actor with a bad, nay, atrocious Scottish accent! In Louisiana? Couldn’t they find any other way to imply he’s a tourist? He’s going night fishing with another tour guide guy.
Short Skater Dude’s body has been found. Police think he might have been strangled – there’s a sharp line around his neck, as well as numerous scratches. It’s never explained how the bats could strangle someone. I try to visualize it, and end of with a picture resembling the Lilliputians trying to tie down Gulliver.
Bad Scottish Accent and his tour guide are out in their boat. BSA hears … the FLITTERING OF DOOM! They’re attacked by … A POV SHOT! We then see a hat floating portentously on the surface of the bayou.
Lucy’s Ecoguilt lecture on “Hypoxic zones” (how does this relate to her class topic again) is interrupted by the police looking for TSD and FSD. Well, The Pigs throw their weight around, refusing to tell Surviving Skaterdudes what they’re being sought for, but then they chattily explain the whole thing to Lucy. Who then … walks out of class to go to the police station to defend them! Man, this is some service from the staff at Tate.
Ah, now we’re getting into the Classic Mode – we meet a smarmy Mayor (JAWS alert! JAWS alert!), who patronizes Lucy. I’m still trying to figure out why the police are talking to either of them.
They were able to get DNA testing done this quickly? Man, great forensic services on the bayou!
“I have a PhD in animal behavioral biology, I can help you!” Yes, at Tate, any wandering academic can check out the bodies in the morgue, without family approval.
Umm, if they have a body with unidentified bite marks, why are they assuming it’s murder?
Classic autopsy scene – Lucy, of course, takes over from the actual pathologist, because she’s, you know, a biologist.
The MAYOR is in there? At the AUTOPSY??! Talk about micromanagement!
Lucy the Seer knows that “these kids didn’t do this!”
The Skaterdudes think they were drugged with ecstasy. They blame the blood on the mosquitoes.
The student newspaper pops up, with a scream headline “Vampires Among Us!” and photos of Skaterdudes. Apparently, they don’t need faculty approval to publish. Wonder what their insurance against libel suits costs them.
(Note that all newspaper headlines shown to summarize the plot are from the student newspaper. Apparently the town is too small to have a professional one.)
Some students are looking to throw another party. They decide the STEAM TUNNELS would be a great place. Think about it. In Louisiana, in the heat of late summer. Of course, bats lurk unseen there.
Lucy and Hunky Husband are checking out their new house, in the midst of construction. While there, the bodies of BSA and TGG float ashore.
The Sheriff shows up, HGW and the ubiquitous Mayor. Mayor refuses to alert people, calling it an “isolated incident”. Three people dead, and the Mayor of some little one-horse town can cover it up? That’s power.
Lucy the biologist identifies bat guano on a victim’s shirt.
The bimbo who was attempting to seduce Lucy’s Husband is attacked by bats while passed out from partying. This has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the plot, and later developments imply that she just woke up after the attack and went about her business.
Brett Butler is suspicious of the Mayor.
Now, the big set-piece! Lucy and Hubby go to a fancy party on a paddlewheeler, while the students start their rave in the steam-tunnels. The contrast between them is supposed to be edifying, or ironic, or something. I suppose it’s proof I’m old that I’d be out of the tunnels and onto the boat in a heartbeat.
Oh yes, the Mayor’s on the boat as well. He’s everywhere, he’s everywhere!
Much filler passes, showing the decadent life of undergraduates, and the stuffy life of small-town academics. Lucy’s dress is great, though.
Bats under the wharf take wing. Bats in the steam tunnels suddenly seem to realize that, since they navigate by sound, prolonged exposure to Acid House Hip-hop Whatever may permanently impair their chances of survival. Go, bats, go!
More partying on the boat. More at the rave. More on the boat ….zzzzz.
Wha? Oh, yeah, THE FLITTERING OF DOOM! At last! Massed bat attack on two fronts!
You know, if I was on a boat with a large number of biologists, I’d expect the biggest danger from a bat attack would be everyone rushing to one side going “Bats? Where? Cool! Lemme SEE!” and causing the whole thing to capsize.
The bat attacks are not badly staged, but they show a serious flaw in vampire bats as antagonists. Unless you’re knocked unconscious, or intoxicated into immobility, they’re just not that dangerous! They’re small, and one or two bites would not incapacitate you. They can’t open doors – they aren’t even superpowered enough to break windows. Did I mention that I find bats cute? It’s like watching people being attacked by flying hamsters.
Gee, the massive bat assault, with dozens of people attacked, has finally brought out the media – one professional TV reporter. The Mayor gives a press conference, but most attendees are locals. He announces a curfew, which everyone thinks is just mean and awful. I mean, the night air is filled with bats hunting humans, why would you even have to tell people to stay INSIDE at night?
Note here that by now, in real life, the bats would be outswarmed by (1) the media, and (2) government officials. However, in this universe, the only state or federal employee at all interested is one game warden.
Lucy is surprised that they don’t have a plan – oh, well, actually, they do. They’ll poison the bats (THE SWARM alert! THE SWARM alert!) Lucy, like a certain Michael Caine character, feels this won’t work (actually, it does, pretty well – I’d say, given a little more effort, it would have taken care of all the bats in a reasonable time period. If people had just accepted the darn curfew…)
Lucy, like all good movie scientists, wants to capture and study them. The Mayor asks “how many people are going to die while we do this?” Which is actually a good question. However, Lucy’s more concerned that the REAL cause of the problem is “something environmental.” Of course it is.
Oh, our flirty batbait finally collapses with rabies. Which appears to be more of an unfortunate social embarrassment than the horrible, inevitably fatal disease it actually is.
Brett Butler is in a cafÃˆ on a date. There’s a nice bit where she rapidly adjusts her order when it turns out her date’s not a big spender. She notices the Mayor having a suspicious meeting with someone from the local hazardous waste company.
Hazardous waste. Sigh. I turned off the VCR here, and it took a lot of willpower for me to turn it back on.
Lucy is going to look for bats. Her heroic undergrad class stands up as one and demands to go with her. She turns them down, but they show up later that night. To her warning about rabies, they say … they went to Student Health and got rabies vaccinations. WTH? Since when does Student Health give prophylactic rabies vaccines? Maybe they went to the local vet’s instead?
Lucy’s using a goat as bait for the bats (JURASSIC PARK alert! JURASSIC PARK alert!) She’s wearing a bandanna that makes her look like Captain Jack Sparrow (POTC alert!), and is armed with a broom (it’s amusing-looking, but probably quite sufficient if you’re planning on fending off bats. Mouse-sized critters, remember?)
A flight of bats appears, and some are trapped in the netting, as Lucy and her cohort retreat rapidly to her truck. Despite the rather poor creature effects, this is one of the better scenes. However…
To make the bats scarier, they’re MUTANT vampire bats, with … extra fangs! Oh, the humanity. Seriously, someone thought this would ratchet up the suspense?
You have to giggle at a line like “These aren’t your everyday vampire bats!”
The student newspaper has the scream heading “Rabid Vampire Bats Infect Campus Coed”. Oddly, the subheading says “Tate University Graduate Hopes Program Will Limit the Number of Student Enrollment Next Quarter”, which doesn’t quite seem to fit the story, although with rabid bats around, I’d imagine limiting the enrollment next quarter will be the least of Tate’s worries.
You know, I mentioned that I thought someone in the production had been in University, although not recently. Well, at high-tech Tate University, profs give lectures using that new invention … the overhead projector! With acetates. I guess Tate hasn’t sprung for laptops for staff yet. Possibly the fax machine may make it only campus any day now.
HGW sets out three or four bats with transmitters. He sprays them with poison, and lets them go. Note that he is wearing short sleeves while letting them fly around him.
The female pathologist shows Lucy and Hubby a dead deer. It was killed by the bats, but was ill beforehand. It was poisoned by … hexachlorobenzene! Dumdum dah!
OK, at least they’ve chosen a real chemical, with real environmental effects. However, the main effect of hexachlorobenzene (once used as a fungicide) is toxicity to aquatic organisms. It may be a carcinogen, although it appears less potent than, say, cigarette smoke. It has some mutagenic data, but many chemicals are much more potent at messing with your DNA. It’s also a HIGHLY regulated chemical (in Canada, if you make more than 10 grams per year of material containing more than 10 PARTS PER BILLION of the stuff, you have to report it to the government).
Actual behavioral effects recorded on animals exposed to hexachlorobenzene include somnolence and tetany (sleepiness and stiffness, for those who’d prefer English). This doesn’t really describe the bats’ behavior very well.
Lucy, Hubby and the Band of Biology Students make a night raid to the waste site. Yes, the broom is in evidence. Yes, they’re committing trespass – man, I hope Tate has good liability insurance for their faculty. They take a water sample, supposedly contaminated with hexachlorobenzene, and narrowly escape a guard in an air boat. An air boat, just like game wardens use. Dumdum dah…
Let’s recap. The waste disposal company (in one of the most heavily regulated, inspected industries around) is dumping a material that is on the government’s “Naughty, not nice” list, into the water ON THEIR OWN PROPERTY. The material is known for causing severe fish kills. They are releasing it in an area where fishing is a major activity. What could go wrong with that plan?
Argh, let’s move along. The HGW shows Lucy a lair of dead bats – at least one had a transmitter. He thinks problem solved, she doesn’t (which is logical, of course – one would think a game warden would know more about animals than this dork).
The kids are studying the remaining bats. They discover they react strongly to whatever trendy noise now passes itself off as music (BEGINNING OF THE END alert! BEGINNING OF THE END alert!)
Two young characters that I’ve probably seen before, but I can’t remember, and don’t care, are … somewhere with a glowing backlit pool. The girl gets into the pool, the guy lingers. The FLITTERING OF DOOM begins! BAT ATTACK! Now, remember that bats don’t dive very well. The girl uses this to her advantage by keeping below the surface as much as compatible with not drowning. The guy stands screaming by the pool edge as he’s shredded by flying bats. I think we’ve solved the question of which sex is the smarter, at least in these two examples.
As Lucy, Hubby and the pathologist are huddled together talking about their hazardous waste problem, they wonder if somehow the company has help covering the release up. Brett Butler overhears and mentions seeing the Mayor with a company representative.
The kids show Lucy in the lab how the bats respond to hip-hop.
The next day, the Mayor and Brett butt heads over her suspicions, as she’s taking the kids for a walk. He makes off with all of them … Dumdum dah!
HGW enters the abandoned church (remember that? It seems so long ago….) and finds lots of dead bats. Plus one with a transmitter. But the FLITTERING OF DOOM is still occurring near the ceiling. However, they respect a man in uniform, and don’t attack.
OK, they’re going to lure the bats into the steam tunnels with the power of MUSIC (or an unreasonable facsimile). Then roast the heck out of their little hides. (BEGINNING OF … oh, we had that alert already.)
Lucy and Hubby finally notice Brett and kids are missing. However, before we get TOO anxious, they track them down at the Mayor’s lair in … City Hall.
Now, the BIG shocker – the Mayor is NOT the bad guy! Yes, in a stunning stroke of originality, he was working with a whistle-blower to uncover the illegal dumping. A genuine surprise. Particularly since, if you wanted to blow the whistle on illegal dumping, one would expect the federal or state EPA would be your first choice, ahead of the small town mayor. I hear they even have an 800 number for this sort of thing, which might be more private than passing information at lunch in a public cafÃˆ.
OK, now it gets predictable again. The bad guy was really the HGW, who tries to trap Lucy in the tunnels as they’re getting ready for Bat Etouffe, but she escapes and he’s eaten/roasted along with the bats. Incidentally, there’s no way HGW would have been able to pass off Lucy’s death as accidental – he handcuffed her to a railing – but who cares at this point. The end. Thank God.
OK, twitterpate, swallow hard and finish this thing up.
The good parts – I mentioned the acting was competent. Lucy makes a reasonable professor – not too young, not too glamorous for her position, but still attractive. Brett Butler does a small-town busybody well enough that one almost forgets her part could be cut from the movie with almost no loss. And the twist about the Mayor was genuinely unexpected – the guy appeared to be such a Bush clone that I almost expected the plot to involve him planning to use the bats to attack Iraq. Indeed, I’m wondering if he was originally intended to be the bad guy, until someone pointed out at the last minute how obvious it was.
Many scenes NOT involved with the main action – college kids selling bat t-shirts (“GOT BLOOD?”), Lucy’s feud with Brett over organizing the pantry – were charmingly realistic enough that when the stupid stuff came it just made it seem worse.
Bad parts – HAS ANYONE IN THIS PRODUCTION EVER DEALT WITH GOVERNMENT???!? Building permits? Parking tickets? Anything? If they did, it must have been the Men In Black, because the writers have some strange sort of amnesia going on. Rabid vampire bats attack your town – no problem, the Mayor will deal with it, not State or Federal authorities. It’s particularly silly because in “Locusts”, Lucy actually worked for the Feds.
Just this week, I had a chance to listen to a lecture by a gentleman who had the misfortune of having his chemical packaging plant in a small town in Texas catch on fire. It took him nearly five minutes to list all the federal, state and municipal authorities who showed up. And they weren’t there to pat his head and tell him how sorry they were.
The EPA does not rely on game wardens or other non-employees to look for and identify releases of hazardous chemicals. Particularly not those that occur on the site itself! I guess it never occurred to the writers that the EPA inspects these sites thoroughly, and on a regular basis. These inspectors are trained, they’re tough, they don’t need search warrants. A hazardous waste facility that operated like the one in this movie could only be run by idiots, or Hollywood movie people.
Small-town mayors cannot cover up multiple deaths from animal attacks. Nope, not gonna happen. And, despite what this movie implies, the media would have some small interest in reports of corpses being found floating in their fishing boats along the bayou. (Not to mention that the first death was ruled a “ritualistic murder with vampiristic overtones”. Cripes, reporters live for headlines like that!) In real life, the bats would probably get driven out of town by the influx of reporters, government officials, and yes, academics (not unwanted volunteers but actually being asked for their input). I don’t think the writers have even watched CNN to see how incidents like this work in real life.
Finally, the boredom issue. The bats, frankly, were not much risk to anyone with enough sense to go indoors at night. Or wear long-sleeved clothing. Our heroine defended herself with a broom – that sums it up right there. Telling us “hey, these bats have eight fangs, not just four, like normal bats, they’re scary!” did not help. Maybe having Bela Lugosi show up would have improved things.
I could continue muttering about the astonishing amount of filler, the so-so special effects, the dreadfully clichÃˆd environmental “message”, the … oh, the hell with it. I’m done. My final rating is one-half of a measly bat wing, nay, one mere fang, out of a possible 5 fully-fledged denizens of the night. This movie sucked a lot more than vampire bats ever do.