The Belzan Forest.
A covert Delta US military force is on a mission to retrieve an enemy scientist. They have to navigate through a dense forest in Chechnya with rebel fighters on the prowl to retrieve their target.
Sound like a tense scenario for an action-packed thriller?
This is Bats: Human Harvest: the latest in a long line of Sci-Fi Channel low budget crap with killer animals on the prowl for us humans, now released on home video by Sony.
The original Bats was a fun B-movie romp with Lou Diamond Phillips. This in-name-only sequel isn't as fun, but it does efficiently follow the template set up by dozens - if not hundreds - of similar movies to premiere on the Sci-Fi Channel or get dumped direct-to-video. First, open with a dramatic kill. Here, we get a bunch of actors who speak English with bad Russian accents playing a military platoon wiped out by hordes of bats. Second, introduce the bat fodder, er, characters. This step takes about a half hour as we meet the US military members - fighting Al-Qaeda in Iraq before globe-trotting around the world - and a Russian-born agent who's been on the trail of our evil doctor, a perpetually frowning guy genetically manipulating bats, presumably for military applications. Third, let the killer animal mayhem ensue. In this go-round, once the Delta Force are roaming around the Belzan Forest with machine guns drawn, the mad doctor's killer bats - hungry with the taste for human flesh - attack en masse. They also apparently have the ability to blend in chameleon-like with trees. Much R rated gunplay and blood-spewing enfold, while the evil scientist watches via a bunch of cameras.
The second half of Bats: Human Harvest offers some entertaining B-level thrills, if you're into bad special effects and make-up work. One can't help but think that horror legend Bela Lugosi would have played the mad doctor here had he been alive today. There's a scene where Dr. Walsh (played with melodramatic menace by Tomas Arana) tries to feed a bat some of his blood pricked from his finger in a lab that looks like it could have been inspired by the Lugosi Poverty Row classic The Devil Bat.
In sum, though, this film doesn't really rise above the typical Sci-Fi Channel standard, but it's watchable if you're into low budget films of this ilk.
I've been a DVDTalk reviewer for a few months now, and in that time, I've already reviewed quite a few Sci-Fi Channel movies for the site. Sony's presentation of Bats: Human Harvest is the best of the bunch so far in terms of video and audio quality - though it's not much of a horserace. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image looks nice and clear - save for some suspect visual effects work and action sequences.
There are audio language tracks in English, French, Portuguese, and Thai. All are in Dolby Digital 5.1 except the French track, which is strangely presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. The English language track is quite good with clear dialogue mixed nicely with the special effects and score.
In addition, subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai.
When the disc is played, a commercial for Blu-Ray automatically begins followed by a trailer for Zombie Strippers. A separate Previews option in the menu system allows you to access both, plus additional trailers for Boogeyman 2, Revolver, April Fool's Day (the upcoming remake that looks more like a remake of I Know What You Did Last Summer), Gabriel, The Tatooist, Southland Tales, Beyond Loch Ness, 30 Days of Night, Damages - The Complete First Season, I Know Who Killed Me, and Resident Evil: Degeneration. The Previews option concludes with a commercial for Fearnet.com.
The only Bats: Human Harvest-related special feature is a Deleted Scenes option in the menu. It offers two brief scenes cut from the film; both are forgettable.
The last hour of Bats: Human Harvest provides enough cheap Sci-Fi Channel killer animal mayhem to entertain fans of this genre. I'd say rent it if you're into this type of thing and avoid if you're aren't.