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R: ARCHIVE, S: MOVIES, D: 10/21/1999,


Here's something guaranteed to drive audiences from the theaters screaming: a scare picture devoid of suspense. Not only is Bats frightless, it squanders easy opportunities for camp, coming up inane where silly would be preferable.

The tepid tale of mayhem begins when the bat population in a small Texas town goes berserk and starts to feast on the townsfolk. Disease Control officials call in a bat-ologist (Dina Meyer, the tough female footsoldier in Starship Troopers) to remedy the situation, but bigger, more devious forces are at work. It turns out that the bats are the product of an über-engineering experiment gone awry. They are smarter and tougher than ordinary bats or any of the all-too-easy-to-kill humanoids in the film.

It's kind of The Birds by way of Deep Blue Sea. Meyer, who seems comfortable trying her hand at Sigourney Weaver's Alien shtick, gets paired up with Lou Diamond Phillips's rough-and-tumble sheriff, and in the climactic scene, the duo attempt to save the town by wading through a river of bat feces. Now that's some scary shit.

-- Tom Meek