BATS was made at a time when such films were proudly shown on a theatrical scale. It enjoyed a cheeky television marketing campaign and hit our screens with the promise of cheap thrills. With films like The Blob and Arachnophobia before it, the structure was familiar and the outcome was predictable, and eager moviegoers lapped that shit up like Kool-Aid. They say that once you have a winning formula you should stick to it, but Morneau got greedy and wanted more... and more... he could have kept the winged creatures at a distance, allowing their sheer volume to terrify, but he chose to put them in full framed close ups. His kills could have been gratuitously violent point-of-view shots, but he chose to put the bats at the centre of frame. Actually, to save you the time I will just state that he could have done a lot of things a certain way but chose abundance over discretion.
Lou Diamond Phillips leads the cast, which includes Dina Meyer, Leon and Bob Gunton... and you guessed right... yes, Gunton is the villain. Phillips is a small town sheriff who finds himself pitted against the vicious creatures and with the help of a zoologist he races against time to kill the bats and save his town from a military strike.
The inconsistency of BATS means that I shouldn't like it at all, and yet with the benefit of time it seems to have found itself a certain charm that it once lacked. Those clever Hickcockian special effects do still elude to a missed opportunity, yet now those tacky puppet effects and awful camera distortions (which once ruined it) have become appealing and nostalgic. There's a gleefulness to watching these rubbery creatures take over the town. Their twisted faces with their pull-string operation and animatronic stiltedness recall the films of Joe Dante, and although the film descends into the realms of incomprehensible absurdity, it has become a thing of frivolity.
Morneau's aptitude is highlighted by a strong production design and strategic camera direction, and with all silliness aside, his film looks amazing. Perhaps the greatest attribute to BATS is screenwriter John Logan, who would go on to become a go-to guy for Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott and Sam Mendes. His writing credits include Gladiator, The Aviator, Hugo, Alien Covenant and Sweeney Todd amongst others, and he has even penned two James Bond films; Skyfall and Spectre. And to think that it all began with BATS... lets call that the John Sayles effect (I'll let you research that reference).
There's all kinds of rollercoasters and they're not always maintained to a standard we expect. You might gain a few bumps and bruises along the way and even though you sprained your neck as the ride ground to a halt, it was pretty fun regardless. That's BATS!