Scene 32: Later, a coroner team is looking over the tramp's body. And, hey, I was wrong! We have a bona-fide other cop at the scene! The bum is put on a stretcher and carted off.
Scene 33: Elsewhere, Johnny is again wandering the desert. I'm wondering if he's headed toward the original site where he was bitten?
HAH! I was right, and it literally showed him arriving at the site of the tour/attack three seconds later.
He's able to sneak his way back into the cavern system, and he hears the whirring bat sound and their squeaks, even though I believe at this point it is still in his mind.
Scene 34: Back with the Sergeant, he's patrolling the city night streets, because he works 24/7 largely unaided. He spots Cathy wandering around looking for her husband and pulls up to the curb. She looks exhausted. He tells her to get in - she wonders where her husband could be.
Ward drops her off at her room and invites himself in. He makes some veiled statements about not being alone which gives me a creepy sensation. He pours a drink from the bottle of liquor in the room and asks her how long she's been married. He probes the state of her marriage, prior to Johnny's running off.
Commentary: Please don't go where I fear you're going with this... he's already eyed her up and down in her nightgown....
Ward asks her about Johnny hitting her and she breaks down, insisting that her husband could never hurt or kill anyone. She sits on the bed crying. He takes a belt of the liquor and removes his hat. He goes down to his knees to take her head against his shoulder and brush her hair with his face.
Finally, she withdraws. She begs him to help her husband to which he replies he'll do his best, calling her by her first name. He takes her face in his hands and tries to kiss her.
Commentary: Oh-! I really didn't want them to go there with this story... it seems an unnecessary diversion from the monster, who we've gotten so little of already.
Cathy pushes him away with a horrified 'no!' and crying. He forces his way into a kiss and when she resists, reminds her that he's the only one who can help her husband. Cathy screams for him to get out. He pushes her back on the bed, but doesn't pursue things any further and leaves, frustrated, with Cathy looking after his exit with revulsion and fear.
Scene 35: While Cathy deals with her superfluous plot point (but Marianne does an excellent job), her missing husband is waiting for the tour group to get the hell out of the way just inside the cavern they visited together. There is a woman in the tour who falls behind as she stops to take photos of the cave formations. Alas for her, in between scenes Johnny has suddenly transformed. He comes up from behind her and grabs her, hand over mouth, and dragging her away.
The tour continues on none the wiser.
In the meanwhile, photo-woman is (apparently) dispatched without so much as a muffled scream...
Scene 36: ... because suddenly John is outside and shows no trace of his monster transformation, again. He has also taken her keys, and using her parking tab (?) figures out which car was hers. He gets in and takes off.
Commentary: Which makes his entire journey to the cavern system utterly pointless! Why did he go there?! Was he looking for the bats? Was he compelled to return to the site of his attack? Why didn't he do ANYthing bat-related once he got there?!
Scene 37: John, apparently, went to the caverns just to steal a car so he could get back to the city where his wife is hanging out. He has managed to crash the stolen car which has drawn Ward's (well, of course) and other-cop's (hey, another cop on duty seen again) attention.
Scene 38: John has returned to the hospital, after more rabies vaccine. He isn't recognized by a nurse on duty.
Commentary: In a very nice, subtle bit of continuity, she asks him if he is new there, too (he didn't know where to find the vaccine) referring to the dead nurse in a scene from oh-so-long ago.
Naturally, despite being satiated by his latest victim, while in the drug room with the nurse on duty, he has yet ANOTHER seizure. In a tense scene, new duty nurse tries to go for some help, but he grabs her and puts his hand over her mouth. He forces her to give him the key to some cabinet - I can't hear what it is - tranquilizer IV fluid, maybe? It doesn't look like blood.
Whatever, during another brief seizure, she escapes and he drinks whatever is in the plasma bag (If it is blood, shouldn't it be refrigerated? It doesn't look thick enough or red enough either. I think its a drug of some sort.).
Scene 39: The new duty nurse runs down the hallway, where no one hears her screams, of course. She manages to run right into Sergeant... of course. She directs him to where Johnny is and he goes after him with his gun drawn. Alas, Johnny is long gone.
Commentary: And, I say alas, because I'm so ready for this damned movie to wrap it up and be on its way....
Scene 40: Around dawn, the Wade's patrol car pulls up at the police station - and there is another guy on duty!!
We find out that the other cops may have found him, but the other officer only pulls out a tape recorder. Hitting play, we hear John's voice giving a last testament. I'm assuming we're seeing a flashback of when John returned to the cavern, killed the woman and stole her car, because we now see him lift the recorder currently playing in the police HQ.
We next see the interior of those caverns as his voice over spouts the usual faux-philosophical blatherings on mankind and nature and stuff.
We see that the Sergeant has taken the recorder with him, and as John hunts down a rat in the cavern, his voice tells us that he is now longing to be the creature he's been metamorphosing into.
Commentary: Where to start? First, we've seen no indication whatsoever until Johnny's confessional that he desires to be the monster. Second, I still can't tell if this part is flashback. I'm pretty sure that Wade's driving is real time, but is Johnny's hunting the rat? Does this mean that after he crashed the woman's car, returned to the hospital, drank the elixir-thing, and escaped again that he travelled (by foot? another stolen car?) back to the cavern - again?
Or did he do all of what we're seeing now before he killed the photo-taking woman and stole her car? Is this part flashback or real time?
And why are you introducing the 'fact' that Johnny wants to be the monster and look forward to the transformation, when all we've seen indicates the exact opposite?!
Scene 41: In definite real time, the Sergeant, the Ski Lodge Doctor and Cathy are listening to this tape, but she turns it off and says she won't listen to anymore. She insists that her husband is delusional and taking on guilt for something he doesn't understand.
Ward turns the tape back on after indicating that however her husband arrived where he has, she is listening to the confession of a murderer.
The voice of Johnny tells them that something has emerged from his psyche....
Scene 42: Later that night, Cathy returns to her motel room - with her life shattered. Johnny is there and stops her from turning on the light.
He's in a closet so that all she can see is his eye (no blood leaking this time) and he tells her that their life is over. He warns her to go home, but she tells him she can't go back alone. He insists that the caves (you mean those very publically visited caves?) are his home now.
At this time, Ward shows up AGAIN (I'm telling you the man is EVERYWHERE), knocking on the motel door. He tells her through it that her husband may have been spotted in the area and asks if he can come in, which she declines (yeah, you'd think after last time). He wishes her a good night, but he may not believe her when she claims that she hasn't had any contact with her husband since he disappeared.
Once they think the officer has left, Cathy turns on the room lights to prove to him that he hasn't been changed - at least physically - at all. He insists that he does become something else and that it is beyond his control. She tries to convince him that he's suffering a delusion because of a reaction to the drugs he's been taking.
He tries to leave, but she stops him saying the police may be watching. She then turns to the power of love/sex to keep him with her.
Scene 43: She is successful in getting him into bed and they tumble around for a bit. Outside, Sergeant Ward has been sitting in his patrol car, keeping an eye on the motel, but he finally gives up and drives off.
While Cathy is distracted by Johnny's grinding hips, he's busy turning into the monster... which, through the power of his pud, she fails to notice.
As Johnny's transformed nose twitches like a bat's, and he growls like a junkyard dog, and bares his now sharpened canine teeth - like a - uh - werewolf, Cathy continues to act like she is building toward her big O moment, so I can only assume that Johnny's got one heck of a riding style, if he can keep up his rythme during all of this transforming, scenting, growling thing, while she continues to be oblivious.
Poor Cathy FINALLY opens her eyes, only to scream at the face hovering over her and then falling into a dead faint.
Scene 44: Outside the motel, we see the manager suddenly leaves his office and runs to Cathy and John's room. I can only think someone heard her scream of impending doom. When she doesn't answer his knocks, he lets himself in. Cathy sits up, apparently fine. He tells her she must have had a heck of a nightmare. The fact that she is naked under the sheet - obviously - does nothing to convince him he should just apologize for busting in and get the hell out.
He finally leaves after reminding her that he'll be in the manager's office all night with nowhere to go in a way that gives me the creeps in the same way Sergeant did long before he put the moves on her. When he's gone, Cathy notes that the window is open and John is gone. On the nightstand, he's left the wedding band that he had taken to wearing on a chain around his neck.
Scene 45: The following morning, the dispatcher radios Sergeant Ward and tells him that Cathy was looking for him, nearly hysterical. She claimed that she had killed her husband and had one of the local rangers drive her up to the caverns. He reports he'll take care of it and hurries off... on foot.
Commentary: I believe he was actually already at the caverns. So, he's there before Cathy and the ranger can arrive, already wondering if John is there - for reasons I can't fathom. I don't remember him mentioning anything on his tape about hanging out in the caves, but I'm not going back now.
So, Ward is wandering around with his rifle and flashlight and Johnny has noted his presence and shrinks back into the darkness.
The officer spots movement in the shadows and goes in pursuit, sending Johnny retreating deeper into the cavern system. Run/pursue, Run/pursue.
As soon as the lawman sees Johnny running away, he turns around, then uses a side passage to get in front of where he's running. Johnny gets pulled up short by a flashlight in his face.
The lawman orders Johnny to come along peacefully, but then beats him in the stomach with his flashlight to either drive the point home, or to get revenge for Cathy's rejection - perhaps a bit of both. He then hits him in the back, driving him to the ground. It looks like he's ready to deliver another blow, but when he stands over his victim, Johnny turns around to reveal that he's transformed again without any seizure activity.
He knocks Sargeant to the ground, then gets on top of him and hits him a bit.
Commentary: The camera work here is abysmal in that 70's jittery way that makes it hard to see what exactly is happening, while at the same time making you slightly nauseous. In fact, it's very much like today's general editing choices which makes movies so painful to sit through.
Johnny beats him unconscious, but doesn't kill him, choosing to run off instead. When Ward recovers, he heads back to the surface for help.
Scene 46: Back at the office, he tells Cathy that he doesn't know what her husband has become, but it isn't human. As Cathy tries to get some answers out of the black and bruised Sergeant, she hears the whooping-bats sound, which he doesn't hear. They return to his police car and drive off into the dusk.
We cut to the scenes of bat faces with squeaking and hawk-cries over them. A cave full of bats is seen. A bat screeching is seen. A colony of bats flying off into the night is seen. (I'm just reporting - these are just a jumble of bat-related stock footage.)
Meanwhile, Cathy gives Sergeant Ward the eye as they drive along - bats are in the air above their car. She can hear the whooping sounds again that her husband had noticed before his first transformation.
In the car, bats begin to hit the windshield of the patrol car. Ward realizes that they're actually attacking them, but Cathy seems serene about it all. With his windshield smeared, he goes off of the road, while Cathy doesn't seem especially concerned at all.
As the Sergeant tries to call for help (the car tire is stuck in the sand again), Cathy gets out of the car and wishes him a good bye. In through Cathy's door, the bats swarm, while she is left untouched. He is overwhelmed in a pretty slow death scene.
Commentary: I think what we're meant to draw from this ending is that Johnny was infected by some sort of whatsis from his bat bite. Slowly he began to transform and be drawn back to the caverns where he was attacked. He in turn, infected Cathy with his seminal fluid and she is now in the process of changing. In the meanwhile, the mutant bats (the ones who are crying like hawks) are inspiring their brethren to turn on the humans - or possibly just to 'rescue' Cathy. This is unclear, because we don't know if the woman from the camping-trailer was actually killed by the bat attacks and Johnny was experiencing psychic flashes, or if this was just in his nightmare as a side effect of the changes his body was undergoing. What also remains a mystery is Johnny's opening nightmare about the bats - was he in contact with this mutant species before? Was he just having a psychic flash of the future? Was it completely random and non-sensical to kick start the film?
(I'm going with the last option.)
Anyway, the Sergeant takes so long to die, even as he grows increasingly weaker that he finally takes his rifle and shoot himself through the bottom of the jaw sending his grey matter into the roof of the interior. Cathy looks back, but continues to wander off into the night. She finds the cave where her husband is staying and climbs up to it....
The Good: Both Stewart Moss and Marianne McAndrew are very strong in their roles. Michael Pataki does a good job in giving us the creeps before his Sergeant Ward does anything to garner our revulsion.
The ending of the film is interesting, but it also leaves more questions about what exactly is going on.
Ward's death scene was well done - especially in how he wasn't instantly killed by the bats.
The Bad: Pacing is a problem here. Most of the scenes are fine isolated, but combined this film is too long for not enough gain. By the end, it really starts to become interminable.
Some of the story elements are in the wrong proportion - there is far too much drama, rather than horror.
Some of the story elements are just plain missing - like the explanation for what the hell happened to Johnny, why he reacted so violently to the rabies treatment, why he had bat-themed dreams before he was even bitten, why he was only infected while the Sergeant was slowly being killed via massive bat attack, whether the attack on him had something to do with Cathy's personal feelings toward him or whether this is the first salvo in a war between the mutant bats and humanity and whether Johnny is responsible or just a side effect.
Which leads to a very muddled plot - is this a b-monster movie, a psychological and body horror, or a nature strikes back flick. It seems to move through all of these without adequately explaining their elements to combine them into an effective narrative.
There are not nearly enough monster attacks, period, for a monster movie... not enough am I crazy/I think I'm being transformed for a psychological or body horror... and the nature strikes back comes out of nowhere right at the end, leaving that sudden addition more baffling than satisfying.
Sergeant Ward's passion for Cathy isn't handled at all effectively - especially since after the unwanted advances, the only sign we see of Cathy's discomfort is when she won't let him into her room - and that is more because her husband is there. WTH? Why bring it up at all if there is no follow through? We can intuit that Ward was going to beat Johnny before bringing him in (or killing him?) because of Cathy's refusal to 'play ball', but it is so ill-defined and unexplained that you really have to make the assumption on whether this is so or not.
It also makes zero sense in context that Johnny-Bat-Person killed the trailer park girl and the homeless wino for blood, but didn't bother to kill the Sergeant after being beaten by him.
Cathy's role starting where she goes to the station to 'hysterically' report killing her husband to later accompanying the lawman out into the desert doesn't make sense. I was assuming she was reporting her husband's death to throw the police off of the search for him, but then she is going to return to the caves where she thinks he is with a ranger (who we never see and this plan is never referred to again), and then later what is Ward's plan? To take her to the cave to see if she can draw her monster-husband out into the open? If so, why is he traveling alone with her instead of at least taking the few other men we managed to see?
The number of times that we see Johnny wander from town to the cave and back again is also weird - especially when it is apparently within hiking distance, making all of the car drives needless. Which is it? Does Johnny need a car or not to reach the caves??
The amount of time that we see Johnny hanging out right where the tourists enter and exit is just stupid - as is the implication that the bats would use that entrance or if this was their way in and out, that the rangers wouldn't have eliminated or relocated the bats or the attraction to a different cave where they wouldn't be constantly dealing with bat guano is ridiculous on its face.
Other Thoughts: I'm alright with not knowing exactly what happened to Johnny because we have enough information to put the clues together and then extrapolate to Cathy, but I really would have preferred for the doctors to eventually have found an anomaly in his blood or signs that he had an until now undiscovered form of rabies or SOME explanation for why Johnny was affected in this manner. I find it surprising that he wasn't involved in bat research that would allow him to be bitten collecting samples... it seemed so obvious a direction to get him infected instead of the weird and random attack by bat on a string! The tie between Johnny, Cathy and the bat attack at the end is haphazard and not at all explained, which isn't a choice I appreciate... especially since by that point, we really needed not only explanations, but a kick-in-the-teeth ending. I'd almost rather the movie had ended on Cathy's being killed by her husband in bed and then Johnny disappearing into the deep caverns for a lonely, bleak future.
The Score: I really wanted to like this more. With a title like 'The Bat People', I was expecting a more fun tone like a throwback to the monster movies of the 50's, and it was in structure but not in pacing or story progression. If they were going to go more with a 70's tone, they really needed to punch this up more with bloody attacks and a bleak ending for Cathy and/or Johnny. As it is, this is like a 1950's script for a 'man becomes monster' sci-fi film that was taken by a 1970's director and had a few inadequate re-writes made to it on set during filming to try to 'update' it into an eco-horror sort of movie, but the script required an actual full rewrite - not on the fly tweaks.
Now, either something like this is exactly what happened or the script was just unready for production to begin with... mighty disappointing. I would love this to be remade with a tighter script and a faster pace as a modern b-movie, popcorn flick. Of course, I'd take anything that will get us away from the slasher-remakes and torture porn laziness of Eli Roth and his ilk.
2.25 out of 5