Fangs (2001)

Starring Whip (Russkies) Hubley, Tracy (“Father Dowling Mysteries”) Nelson, Katie (Wild Things 2) Stuart, Corbin (The Dentist) Bernsen

Directed by Kelly (“Family Matters”) Sandefeur

About 20 minutes into Fangs I was almost convinced that this film wasn’t new, but actually some movie made in the 80s by NBC that they would have aired sometime around Halloween hyping it as “spooky fun for the whole family.” It’s no wonder I got that vibe since Fangs stars a bunch of low-rung TV actors, is directed by the man who gave the world Urkel, and was written by one of the writers for “Mama’s Family”. I can’t begin to fathom the sheer number of people who have already been suckered into renting this waste of time on the basis of its box art alone, which actually makes the film look like it’s about vicious little bats up to no good.

It lies. This is not a jolly good fangfest.

While Fangs may technically revolve around the concept of killer bats, virtually everything actually involving the bats takes place off-screen, so much so that a more fitting title for the movie would have been Unseen Bat Attacks. Instead of the nature gone amok movie one expects to see, we are subjected to a never-ending sea of cutesy one-liners that even the writers of “HeeHaw” would have considered unfunny. For example, after one character dies (off-screen), the camera cuts to a parking meter where the “Time Expired” sign suddenly pops up. Another example, we’re shown one of the prissy, stuck-up female characters the next day after surviving an onslaught of flying foxes. Dead? Nope. Savagely mauled? Nope. She’s covered in bright blue band-aids and desperately trying to get an appointment with a plastic surgeon. I haven’t even mentioned the stuff involving the scientist’s two female student assistants, both of whom talk like valley girls even though it was now the 21st century the last time I checked. Now if any of this sounds funny to you, then Fangs is the movie for you. Rest assured, there is no horror here other than the horror you’ll experience knowing you paid good money to see it.

Fangs is rated PG-13 although I don’t know why. The body count consists of only three people and a dog. There is no profanity. There is no sex. There is no nudity. Even though there’s a romantic subplot, I don’t recall them ever actually kissing. What the hell is this supposed to be – a wholesome family film about vicious, killer bats? Oh wait, that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. That would be all well and good if the movie wasn’t overloaded with lame writing, uninspired acting, and a lack of screen time for the very thing the movie is supposed to be about.

A university scientist has been genetically engineering a new breed of bat that is more vicious and ravenous for reasons never really explained. He’s also developed some sort of ultrasonic sound device that controls the bats feeding instincts. Since humans can’t hear the tone, this plot device is visually manifested in the form of a remote control device with two lights on it. When the green light is on, the bats are calm. When the red light is turned on, the bats instantly go into a feeding frenzy and will kill any living animal in sight. Somehow the bats get out of their cages and kill the doc before escaping into the night.

Whip Hubley is the recently widowed town veterinarian who likes to snoop around crime scenes without permission from the authorities. He has a teenage daughter looks like she could be Miss Teen USA, also talks like a modern day valley girl, and obsessed with filming everything with her digital camcorder. She in turn has a dimwitted boyfriend who is supposed to be a computer wiz despite being portrayed as being about as bright as Spiccoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Tracy Nelson is the plucky police detective investigating the bat killings. She’s is perpetually flanked by an annoying fraidy cat cop who has never seen a dead body and is terrified of the sight of blood, as if there’s any blood in this movie to begin with. Hell, there’s hardly any bats. She and Whip end up crossing paths and, naturally, start off their budding relationship by having the cutest arguments. They reluctantly end up investigating the bat attacks, the scientist’s research, and the mystery of love all the while engaging in non-stop cute/nauseating banter.

Enter Corbin Bernsen as the obligatory evil rich guy who is accumulating the town’s land by hook or crook so that he can build expensive housing and a golf course in order to attract the upper crust of society and thus become even wealthier and snobbier. The town sheriff is in his back pocket and even aids in his schemes to forcibly evict people. Mr. Generic Evil Yuppie also has a head goon played by the really fat guy who looks after Tony’s uncle on “The Sopranos”, who in turn has a mean-looking pitbull for a pet. Bernsen plays his evil rich guy role with all the subtlety of one of the snobs in Caddyshack. Not since Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo has such industrial villainy been put to film.

The bats themselves are brought to life through a combination of obvious puppetry and even more obvious CGI. When you actually do see the bats swarming, it’s either really blurry or you see people with a toy bat stuck to them. You’ll come to realize rather quickly that maybe you’re better off not seeing the actual attack scenes after all.

It’s soon revealed that there is a shadowy figure using that red/green control device to command the bats to attack specific targets (i.e. Corbin Bernsen & his henchmen), culminating in a pathetic “Scooby Doo”-like finale. I apologize for soiling the good name of Scooby Doo by associating it in any way with this film. Lord knows Scooby’s good name has suffered enough lately so let me rephrase that previous statement and say that the old “Clue Club” cartoon had more compelling mysteries than this.

And I can’t wrap up this review without mentioning the song during the closing credits that sounds like something Cheap Trick would have recorded back in the 80s. Check out these lyrics: “We got an attraction! We got a chemical nuclear reaction! It doesn’t get any better than this!” I would definitely dispute this last part. I always love it when the song in the closing credits has absolutely nothing to do with anything that has preceded it and doesn’t even match the movie’s tone. Then again, this song really sucks, so to that end it does fit the movie.

The mystery of Fangs’ wretchedness is finally revealed at the very end of the closing credits when the web address for the film’s producers, Porchlight Entertainment, scrolls across the screen. Folks, Fangs is a nature gone amok horror movie from a production company founded at the ABC Family Channel during the time when it was owned and operated by Pat Robertson. Yep, this really was designed to be a wholesome family film about vicious, killer bats.

0 ½ out of 5

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Jon Condit

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