Bats: Human Harvest

Director: Jamie Dixon   
David Chokachi, Michael Jace, Pollyanna McIntosh

Let's give thanks to the folks at Sony. For over fifty years they have been serving and entertaining millions of people around the world. Starting from a bombed-out building in Tokyo, they first started repairing radios. Then they started to make radios (transistor radios) themselves. Then from that point they just grew and grew, making new products and acquiring new business ventures in the process. Televisions... video cassette recorders... and video game consoles... they just keep getting bigger and better. I am one of the millions who has been entertained and served by Sony throughout the years. I'm pretty sure that my family's first audio cassette recorder/player was a Sony. I remember us getting, from friends of the family, cassettes that were recordings from records, since our family (for some reason) never got a record player. (Why didn't we get one, Dad?) In my later years, I was still entertained by Sony. I remember getting a Playstation (One), and being thrilled by full-motion video in video games, better graphics and audio than what I had experienced before, and getting games that had not been censored for the North American market (unlike Nintendo at that time). I was equally thrilled when I later got my Playstation 2. It had even better graphics and audio, and it came with a DVD player built inside so I could rent DVDs. My present DVD player is also a Sony, and it comes with helpful stuff like slow-play (handy when viewing bodies being blown apart onscreen) and fast-play (handy when I am watching a movie that is too slow-moving for my taste.)

Sony has not only shown itself to be a leader when it comes to making ways to deliver entertainment to us, it has also proven equally strong when it comes to making entertainment for us. There's stuff like video games, but the places where Sony has really shone is in the production of television shows and movies. Just take a look at when Sony purchased Columbia Pictures from the Coca-Cola company in 1989. When the purchase took place, Columbia was in a shambles. Although up to this point they were never in their history as major as the other Hollywood studios (they had very few of the top ten box office hits each year up to this point), they were barely hanging on at this point, churning out an unbroken string of box office flops like Little Nikita and Physical Evidence. Now take a look at Columbia Pictures now - they hold their head up high with the other studios. But what I really admire about Sony with making movies is that often they inform us what they think of their movies themselves. Take the Tri-Star brand, which they own. If you look at the movies they have released under that label for the past few years, you will see that they are saying for them, "We don't have any confidence that movies we release under this label will do well at the box office." That doesn't mean all recent Tri-Star released movies are bad - Wind Chill was at times a creepy little horror movie, but its lack of explanation for stuff and the fact it wasn't a slasher movie probably explains why Sony barely released it. But the lack of confidence for almost all other Tri-Star-released movies of recent years is that they are bad. Just take a look at their recent movies: Daddy Day Camp... The Brothers Solomon... I Know Who Killed Me... 88 Minutes... the list goes on.

Another way Sony has provided help for audiences is with the resurrected brand Screen Gems. If you look at all (and I mean all) of the movies Sony has released under this brand name since its resurrection, you will see Sony is saying for each one, "This movie may be popular enough to make a few bucks for us at the box office, but trust us, it stinks." Just take a look at these examples: Prom Night... the Resident Evil series...Anacondas... Ghosts Of Mars... The Cave... You Got Served... Ultraviolet... this list goes on as well. Then there is the label Sony uses for a number of movies that are given limited releases to theaters or go straight to video, Destination Films. For movies that are released under this label, Sony seems to be saying for each one, "There's about a 50% chance that this movie stinks." That's because for every good movie released under this label (such as Mirrormask or Seraphim Falls), there's another movie that is bad (such as Hollow Man II). Some chance of merit is pretty good for the direct-to-video genre, which is why I picked up the Destination Films movie Bats: Human Harvest. The plot: After Russo (Chokachi, Witchblade) and his fellow Delta Force members raid an Al-Qaeda camp in Iraq, the team discover evidence that the higher brass have been seeking for a long time - the location of Dr. Benton Walsh (Tomas Arana, The Last Temptation Of Christ), a scientist who formerly worked for the American army but now has sold his services to the highest bidder. The evidence reveals he now works for the rebels in the Chechen Republic. The Russians are seeking him as well, so the team is quickly reassembled to man a mission to capture Walsh and extract him out. What the team doesn't know is that Walsh has a new weapon he's trying out (can you guess?)...

In case you are wondering, I did see the original 1999 Bats movie. Researching it on the web, I discovered that just about everyone who has seen it has hated it, but I didn't find it that bad. Yes, if I had seen it in a theater I probably would have felt I had been ripped off. But seeing it at home after just paying a few dollars for a rental fee, I found it somewhat agreeable. It had excellent cinematography and a "big" feel to it despite its low budget. It's far from being a classic, but as a revival of the 1970s mad-animals-on-the-loose genre it was watchable, especially if you took it as a simple B movie. This was another reason why I rented this follow-up, to try and recapture that feeling I got from the original movie. But after watching Bats: Human Harvest, I had to wonder what all those people who passionately hated the first movie would think after watching this movie. I love B movies, but even I found this one seriously crummy. Take the locations, for instance. Like many other B movies of recent years, this movie was shot in Bulgaria, a fact that I knew before watching it. Unlike some of those other B movies, I didn't find this fact bad. In fact, I thought it would help, seeing how that Bulgaria isn't that far from where this movie primarily takes place. But while the location may be similar, it wasn't very spectacular to view. Most of the forest where the events of the movie take place consists of thin-trunked trees that aren't spaced very closely together, and it looks like much of the movie was filmed near the creek that runs past your house. It makes the movie look cheap, and doesn't feel like a creepy environment where there is something spooky hiding nearby.

Towards the end of the movie (and in one short scene early on in the movie), the action takes place in an abandoned Chechen town, and the Bulgarian abandoned and gutted buildings they used to represent this town are pretty convincing. It's certainly a creepier and more ominous location than the forest they used. That's one good thing I can say about Bats: Human Harvest. But the rest of the movie looks seriously low budget. It's not just the poorly chosen locations that make the movie look cheap, but for something else that has cursed a number of low budget B movies of recent years: CGI. Now, I'm not automatically against using CGI in movies; there have been several movies when it has been used to good effect, like Transformers or the Lord Of The Rings movies. But when it comes to low budget movies, the results usually look more shabby than the techniques these filmmakers used before CGI became available. There are establishing shots of the forest drawn with CGI, and there are a couple of scenes when the camera weaves through the trees of a CGI-drawn forest - why didn't the filmmakers just simply and inexpensively create this footage with their cameras? There is a lot more CGI in the movie than just this. For example, all the helicopters that are seen in the movie are created with CGI, and while they may look passable when they are seen at what is supposed to be a distance, they are embarrassing to view when they are close-up onscreen.

As you have probably guessed, all of the bats in the movie (except for one brief moment when a bat puppet is used) are created by CGI as well. That would be inevitable for a big-budget movie as well as for a B movie like this. To say that the special effects for the bats are the best in the movie isn't exactly a compliment. While it's clear that a lot of time and effort was spent in making a pack of bats that swoop and circle and bloodily attack (the unconvincing gore in this movie is mostly CGI as well), they still look pretty muddy. In fact, it's pretty laughable in the scenes where they attack the humans, since you can easily erase these badly superimposed bats in your mind and see the human actors swatting and shooting at nothing instead. The actors in the movie have a lot more to be humiliated about. There's not one good performance in the movie, though in fairness to them the screenplay and the direction gave the actors little to work with. Russo's character is a pretty obnoxious one, with his sloppy hair and unshaven face, and when you add the fact that he disobeys orders several times in the movie you have to wonder how he managed to stay in the Delta Force all this time without being thrown out. The character of Dr. Benton Walsh is one of the most boring bad guys I've seen in a movie. He doesn't get to say or do much that could be considered evil. He seems almost like an afterthought. I could spend more time talking about the stupidity of the movie (like when a caption says the time is 1100 hours when we are seeing a sunset), but I don't see the point; I think by now you sense just how bad this movie is. (In case you don't, let me add the fact that this was a co-production with Sci Fi Pictures. Ah, now you know how bad it is.) This is one Destination Films' product that falls in the 50% that stinks, and its destination is the trash barrel.

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See also: Dogs, King Cobra, Mosquito