Plot: What’s it about?
You know those recent animal movies like Lake Placid and Anaconda? I consider this movie to be the third installment in the series, this time, of course, focusing on bats. Not just any bats either, a force of biologically enhanced bats, who seem to be pissed all the time. Not content to just hang around in a cave and hunt bugs, these bats choose to vent their frustrations by attacking humans, with sometimes lethal results. The biological enhancement has made these bats smarter, faster, meaner, and more cohesive. Even the military has been brought in to help tame these flying creatures, but will even that be enough?
I know that Bats has been, well, panned, by most reviewers and critics. What makes me different from them is that I went into bats looking for a cheesy movie with some nice effects. That’s exactly what Bats is, it doesn’t strive to be Oscar material, it knows it’s place and stays there. It’s easy to see why people might not like this movie, but I went into with somewhat low expectations, so I was pleased with the film. I happen to enjoy these “when animals attack” type movies, and cheesy horror movies as a whole, so I am perhaps biased. There are some holes in the plot, but every movie is plagued with realism issues. Columbia has issued Bats on DVD with a royal red carpet treatment, and I think that speaks volumes for the potential market the movie will find on home video. I recommend the movie for a rental, and if you like it, don’t hesitate to buy the disc, it’s a wonderful treatment.
As with most of these “when animals attack” movies, Bats features an ensemble cast, which ends up playing second fiddle to the animals. The lead role is a toss up between Lou Diamond Phillips and Dina Meyer, who share a good amount of screen time. While I won’t say the acting is good, these two do the best they can given the material. Since the main focus here is the creatures, the dialogue is lacking, so the actors don’t have a lot to go on. That being said, I think the actors do a nice job given what they’re saying. Phillips (Brokedown Palace, The Big Hit) does a good turn as the local law enforcement, while Meyer (Stranger Than Fiction, Starship Troopers) plays an expert on the subjects of the film. Also starring are Leon (Cool Runnings), Bob Gunton, and Carlos Jacott.
Video: How does it look?
Bats is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, with no option for full screen. The image looks sharp and clear, with a pristine print to thank. The color scheme runs a little dark, but this is intentional, so no worries. When brighter shades emerge, they look rich and without errors. Since the movie is very dark, I was wary about the transfer, as many of these darker movies end up with muddied shadows. Thankfully, this transfer suffers no such woes, with accurate contrast levels to ensure a great picture. Detail level is high even in the darkest of shadows, and those shadows are separated perfectly. The disc is also free of compression errors, an impressive transfer!
Audio: How does it sound?
This disc sports a Dolby Digital 5.1 track with EX enhancement, which makes you feel like you’re right in the movie. The bass response is excellent, and surround use is frequent and consistent. The movie has some good “make you jump” moments, and the audio is powerful during those moments. A very active and enveloping track, one of Columbia’s best audio treatments to date.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Columbia has released Bats as a special edition, which is great news for those of us that enjoyed the film. A brief featurette is included, which has some behind the scenes footage, but again, is very short. Two before and after comparison sections are also on the disc, one dealing with special effects, the other concept sketches. You can see what changed from the concept stage, and what the scenes looked like sans special effects, very cool. The disc also houses a very nice still photo gallery, which includes some great concept sketches. Two alternate audio tracks are packed in for your listening enjoyment, one an isolated score, the other a running commentary from director Louis Morneau and actor Lou Diamond Phillips. Both are worth a listen, although the commentary is more self promoting than informative. Rounding out the disc are production notes, talent files, the theatrical trailer, and some bonus trailer for other Columbia movies.