Review: ‘Vampire Bats’

Continuing its run of "B" movies with silly 1950s sci-fi plots, CBS' "Vampire Bats" again warns it's not wise to fool with Mother Nature. Environmental messages aside, pic is mostly an excuse for coeds to strip down to their underwear to render them more visually enticing appetizers -- for potential viewers, not the bats.

Continuing its run of “B” movies with silly 1950s sci-fi plots, CBS follows up “Spring Break: Shark Attack” and “Locusts” with “Vampire Bats” — a kind-of sequel to the latter that again warns it’s not wise to fool with Mother Nature. Environmental messages aside, pic is mostly an excuse for coeds to strip down to their underwear to render them more visually enticing appetizers — for potential viewers, not the bats. Given the “So bad it’s good” mentality, this could become the first time a network uses the term “sucks” in a promo.

After her run-in with voracious, homicidal locusts, former government scientist Maddy Rierdon (Lucy Lawless) and husband Dan (Dylan Neal) have taken refuge as professors at a small Louisiana college, Tate U., which, based on the bitchin’ parties, may as well be Faber College. Before they’re introduced, the action opens at a wild frat bash where one attendee gets the life drained out of him.

Clues keep piling up that something batty is happening, as offscreen bats dispatch various locals, including a fisherman played in a perplexing cameo by latenight host Craig Ferguson. Then again, it’s equally odd to see onetime sitcom heavyweight Brett Butler turn up as Dan’s sister, having little to do but baby-sit her brother’s kids.

It’s nearly an hour before the bats actually descend en masse, simultaneously attacking a ritzy party attended by the mayor (Timothy Bottoms, channeling Murray Hamilton’s demeanor in “Jaws”) as well as the college kids at an underground rave. Prodded into action, Maddy and her students seek to discover what mutated the bats into ravenous people-chomping monsters.

Coming from the producers and writer of “Locusts” as well as “Martha Behind Bars” director Eric Bross, “Vampire Bats” employs most of the former’s tricks — identify the threat, then figure out how to trick the predators to fly in unison to their deaths — with less compelling results. Perhaps that’s because even when the bats smother a victim, it looks like anyone who’s ambulatory could swat the little bastards away. What’s next, “Butterflies: The Fluttering Death”?

The cast is earnest, if nothing else, though the emphasis on T&A diminishes the adults’ presence. Besides, with the bad luck that follows Maddy around, it’s a wonder the entire town isn’t Xena-phobic.

Sadly, regular viewers won’t enjoy the same comic experience to which critics were treated on an incomplete screener version, watching actors flail at invisible bats that in some sequences had yet to be added via computer graphics.

In a perverse way, though, that seems like a pretty good metaphor for the TV movie business, which continues to flail away, hoping to resist the suction slowly tapping into its life’s blood.

Vampire Bats

CBS, Sun. Oct. 30, 9 p.m.

Production

Filmed in New Orleans and Halifax by Violet Blue Prods. in association with Von Zerneck/Sertner Films and Sony Pictures Television. Executive producers, Frank von Zerneck, Robert M. Sertner, Jill Tanner; co-executive producers, Malcolm Petal, Kimberly C. Anderson; producers, Christopher Morgan, Randy Sutter; co-producer, Peter Sadowski; director, Eric Bross; writer, Doug Prochilo; based on characters created by Prochilo.

Crew

Camera, Horacio Marquinez; production design, Jim Gelarden; editor, Micky Blythe; music, Doug Cuomo; casting, Susan Glicksman. 120 MIN.

Cast

Dr. Maddy Rierdon - Lucy Lawless Dan Dryer - Dylan Neal Shelly - Brett Butler Warden Jay Schuster - Liam Waite Hank Poelker - Timothy Bottoms Sheriff Herbst - Tony Plana
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