Wednesday, September 26, 2012

See My Toothy Grin?: "Fangs" (2003)

Sure, it rips off everything from "Jaws" to "Arachnophobia," but this cheap effort about killer bats in a small town caught me in the right mood- and it's better than "Bats."

Scottsville is a small California town going through some changes. Local crooked land developer Hart (Corbin Bernsen) is cheating local farmers out of their acreage. He is selling substandard homes to local yuppies, and paying police chief Taylor (Michael Gregory) to look the other way.

Local university professor Fuller (Mark Taylor) has been doing genetic research on hundreds of bats, turning them into aggressive killers. One night, they get loose, kill their maker, and flee into the Scottsville sky. Detective Ally (Tracy Nelson) is called in to investigate the death. The chief wants the case closed and shelved, since the town's apple festival is fast approaching.

Other deaths follow, all bat attacks, and Ally teams with widower veterinarian John (Whip Hubley, looking like Jeff Daniels), his teen daughter Genny (Katie Stuart), and Genny's goofy dude boyfriend Logan (Lukas Behnken) to track down whoever is triggering the bats to attack specific people.

First off, the bat effects are surprisingly good. Yes, a bit obvious, but still good. Hubley and Nelson have a nice chemistry going, leading the B cast (including a HUGE Tony Longo) through the easy-to-solve mystery. The script never takes itself seriously (the professor's two interns are a hoot), so the welcome light moments work. Sandefur's direction is also very confident, lending gravitas to what amounts to a straight-to-video effort.

"Fangs" is harmless fun, full of goofy characters and ridiculous situations. I hate the old cliche that one needs to "turn your brain off and enjoy" something unsubstantial, but in this case I'll make an exception (just don't tell anyone). (* * * *) out of five stars.