Movie: I Like Bats (1986)

Like the central character of 1986’s I Like Bats, I also like those mammals, and feel they are unfairly maligned.  Just look at the bodies, sans those leathery wings, and they’re a bit like small dogs.  The opening credits roll over one eating some sort of fruit, possibly an orange, and it is adorable.

Still, I wouldn’t make a ceramic teacup with a bat wing in place of a handle, which is one of the pieces the chief protagonist has made that is for sale in her aunt’s shop.  This gets the attention of psychiatrist Marek Barbasiewicz, who buys a set which he takes back with him at the clinic he oversees.  The artist (Katarzyna Walter) will eventually go to that facility to try to cure her vampirism.

What the doctor doesn’t understand is she doesn’t just think she is a vampire, but that she really is one.  We have already seen her claim a few victims, including a serial rapist and murderer, so it seems we could probably do with more vampires, actually.

I wouldn’t have expected this Polish film to strictly adhere to traditional vampire tropes, and it has some interesting new angles to explore.  She can’t be hypnotized.  Also, in an unusual twist on these monsters not casting reflections in mirrors, it is discovered she can’t be x-rayed.

This film then goes far beyond these twists on vampire lore and has a great many elements that seemed to be weird for just weird’s sake.  Some of these worked better for me than others.  Largely, these elements took me out of the viewing experience and kept me at arm’s length from fully appreciating it.

Still, some of those moments are mildly humorous, such as a woman in a bar who stands up, lowers her dress and starts dancing topless.  I was confused, because this seemed to be a customer who just up and decided to do this on a whim.  Then the bartender chastises her for going this again, and this confirms she at least isn’t being paid to do this.  I chuckled at this bit, though partly out of stunned disbelief

Other moments don’t fare as well.  There’s Jonasz Kofta as Narkoman (I’m imaging a super-anti-hero with that moniker), a junkie at the sanatorium whom we first see painting a self-portrait on a curtain that is several stories high.  Towards the end of the film, there’s another asylum, where the patients are kept in what are essentially kennels, on the beach right at the edge of the ocean.  That is absurd and not even the interesting kind of absurdity.  It just feels like somebody ran out of ideas.

It’s no surprise this is a pretty horny film, though the actual sex here isn’t very titillating.  Those scenes are largely some sort-porn dalliances between clinic nurses and the endlessly randy groundskeeper.  These scenes may not be staged with any degree of taste, but they do actually factor into the plot, even if I only realized that after the film was over.

The best moment in the film is a scene at a masked party.  No, it does not turn into something out of Eyes Wide Shut.  Instead, Barbasiewicz laughs so hard at the vampire mask a novelty-joke-selling asshole is wearing that she accidentally exposes her fangs.  Seeing this, the guy has a heart attack.

Aside from the most egregiously weird moments in I Like Bats, there were other aspects I wondered if these were more deliberate absurdity, or if I was seeing traditional aspects of Polish life.  For example, at the funeral for that guy, there’s a large fishbowl with a couple of occupants placed on top of the coffin.  Even the language rings odd to my ears. Spoken at its most slowly, it sounded like a backwards recording.  One thing I am still mulling over the next day is a series of street lights running through a clearing as if they flanked a sidewalk, but there isn’t even a worn footpath there.  We even see motorcycle go by it, as if this as a thoroughfare.  I was left wondering if Poland had not invented concrete by the time this picture was made.

Dir: Grzegorz Warchol

Starring Marek Barbasiewicz, Katarzyna Walter

Watched as part of Severin’s blu-ray box set House of Psychotic Women