Two Thrillers from Sony Pictures
Bats: Human Harvest (April 10/08)
An in-name-only sequel to the 1999 Lou Diamond Phillips thriller Bats, Bats: Human Harvest is an astoundingly inept effort that follows an elite squad of soldiers as they're sent into a Chechen forest to retrieve an evil scientist (Tomas Arana). Along the way, the military men and women - including David Chokachi's Russo and Melissa De Sousa's O'Neal - find themselves forced to battle battle heavily-armed rebels and genetically-altered, blood-sucking bats. There are few overtly competent elements within Bats: Human Harvest, as the film has been infused with an egregiously amateurish vibe that extends to virtually every aspect of the production. The eye-rollingly stale storyline does the movie no favors, while the laughable special effects will surely turn off even the most ardent z-grade horror fan. The inclusion of a few unintentionally chuckle-worthy moments does sporadically alleviate the colossally dull atmosphere, with Russo's insistence that he could have averted 9/11 if only he'd been in Afghanistan prior to the attacks certainly the most apt example of this. But even gorehounds will find little here worth embracing, as the film's made-for-The-SciFi-Network origins remain painfully apparent throughout its interminable running time (ie characters say things like "what the heck" and "freakin' bats!"). There's ultimately no getting around the feeling that Bats: Human Harvest is lowest-common-denominator, bottom-of-the-barrel stuff virtually from start to finish, and one subsequently can't help but marvel at its very existence (ie you'd think someone within the production team would've noticed the distinct lack of positive attributes).
Impulse (April 11/08)
Saddled with an entirely overblown premise, Impulse primarily resembles one of those late-night erotic thrillers that one occasionally stumbles upon while channel surfing - with the ample nudity and inclusion of progressively absurd twists surely cementing this vibe. Singer-turned-actress Willa Ford stars as Claire Dennison, a successful advertising executive whose marriage to an older psychologist (Angus Macfadyen's Jonathan) has evidently grown stale as of late. She decides to engage in a little role-play to spice up their dwindling sex life, and is pleasantly surprised when Jonathan shows up at a bar in the guise of a smooth-talking sex maniac. Problems ensue after Claire comes to the horrifying realization that the man she slept with is, in fact, not her husband but rather his psychotic doppelganger. It's the kind of set-up that'd almost be more at home within an '80s-style wacky comedy, and yet it's played completely straight by writer/director Charles T. Kanganis (as well as by the surprisingly competent cast). And while it's impossible to deny that the movie remains surprisingly watchable for a while - particularly as Kanganis piles on one outlandish plot development after another - there does reach a point at which one can't help but grow tired of the ridiculously over-the-top shenanigans. The increasingly illogical behavior among the central characters certainly doesn't help matters, nor does the film's lamentable third-act transformation into a tedious stalker-from-hell thriller. Despite its deficiencies, however, Impulse is ultimately a slight cut above the majority of its similarly-themed direct-to-DVD brethren - if only because of the better-than-expected work from both Ford and Macfadyen.