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There are different levels of "bad" when it comes to movies. There's bad and forgettable, there's so bad it's actually somewhat entertaining and so bad it's not even funny. I have to say while watching "Bats", I found myself placing it in the middle catagory, which suprised me since I fully expected it to land in the last one. The movie is sort of a varation on last Summer's "Deep Blue Sea" where Sharks were genetically altered, and proceeded to attack humans. This time, it's bats. Tons and tons of the little creatures invade many of the scenes.
The movie takes place in a small Texas town where the bats are coming from. Soon enough, we're introduced to all of the characters, who over the next hour and a half, will proceed to do some rather stupid things. First is the town's sheriff, played with ultra-seriousness by Lou Diamond Phillips, a scientist played by Bob Gunton(who's been in far better films) and a bat specialist(Dina Meyer, changing her look since "Starship Troopers"). The bats begin attacking and well, you know, they have to stop them. That's pretty much it. The bat effects vary in quality - some are good, some are definitely not convincing - and the puppets are just downright hilarious. I absolutely wish that the show "Mystery Science Theater 3000" would come back just to make fun of this movie, because it's more perfect than anything for that show.
Acting? Dialogue? Nah. Not in "Bats". The dialogue is full of one-liners so bad and read with such utter seriousness that I couldn't help but laugh. You know you've got problems when the best performances are by the bats, who get big laughs every time they have a close up. The film uses extremely rapid cutting or shakes the living daylights out of the camera to cover up the effects at times. It's terrible stuff throughout, but strangely, it's oddly watchable in a cable-movie way. There were a couple of things that I did like - Graeme Revell's score and the film's sound design
VIDEO: Tristar has done a really impressive thing: they've made "Bats" highly watchable. This is a stunning transfer, anamorphic and letterboxed at 2.35:1. Images are razor sharp throughout, and consistent even in the darker scenes - there is a very strong amount of detail throughout, as well. Colors are deep and rich, never bleeding. Flesh tones are natural and black level remains strong. No instances of shimmering or pixelation, and just the slightest mark or two on the print. All in all, very excellent work.
SOUND: I have to say that the sound is what I really enjoyed most about this movie and, if anything, it's what made the movie watchable for me. Not expecting that much, I was amazed to find just how good the audio was. When the bats attack, they can be heard strongly from all around the viewer - flying over them, flying around them, flying at them. There were times when I was actually ducking because the sound was so wonderfully realistic. Surrounds are used a great deal and very effectively, and the score also sounds clear and nicely enveloping. Dialogue is clear and never lost.
MENUS:: Nicely done main menu with a little animated "bat clip" before the main menu itself, and also before the movie begins.
EXTRAS: I also reviewed "Double Jeopardy" this week on DVD. "Double Jeopardy" had a trailer and a short featurette. "Bats" is a special edition. "Double Jeopardy" made over 100 million dollars. I doubt "Bats" made more than 10. It just goes to show the efforts that Tristar makes with their DVD editions.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Louis Morneau and actor Lou Diamond Phillips. What gets in the way of the discussion is talk about how great everything and everyone was, which is not something I'd expected on a commentary for a movie like this. When they aren't giving praise to everything on-screen, the commentary does provide some moderately interesting stories about the production and some technical details. I found most of it to be a somewhat entertaining listen, but it's not the best commentary I've heard, and all of the "they're so great, it's so great, we're so great"'s get a little tiring.
Trailers: The trailer for "Bats" and trailers for "John Carpenter's Vampires", "Fright Night", "Night Of the Living Dead" and "The Tingler".
"Bats Abound": A 5 minute featurette that has some interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.
Photo Galleries: Two decent-sized galleries containing conceptual and effects artwork for the creatures in "Bats".
Storyboard/FX Comparisons:: 2 split-screen comparisons between the storyboards and the final film for the "Bronco Attack" and "Town Assault" scenes. Even cooler are two scenes ("Bronco Attack" and "In The Mine") where there is a split-screen comparison between the early FX and the final scene.
R-rated version: Although I didn't see the film in theaters so I don't know the differences, this is apparently the "un-cut" director's edition of the movie that takes it from a PG-13 to an R.
Also: The film's isolated score.
Final Thoughts: The movie is pretty awful throughout, but Columbia/Tristar has put out a very nicely done DVD (great sound!). If you like bad horror movies, you may want to check this out as a rental.