"For something is amiss or out of place When mice with wings can wear a human face."
— Theodore Roethke, "The Bat"
Bats are creepy for many people. They often seem ratswith wings to us, they are thought to spread rabies, and apparently like to hang out in all sorts of dark, foreboding places (caves, bell towers, abandoned houses, castles, crypts, etc). Three species (out of over 1,000!) are infamous for drinking blood, and have led to a strong association between bats and vampires. As such, bats frequently show up as antagonists in horror themed media. Can be roughly divided into a few types:
Dire bats: Larger and more vicious than normal bats, and menacing even without The Swarm to back them up.
Werebats: Monstrous, anthropomorphic creatures with a mixture of bat and human features.
Robo bats: Robotic bats.
Vampires can sometimes transform into these.
In Real Life bats aren't actually all that bad, and probably among the most unfairly maligned animals. Most bat species only eat insects or fruit, and many species are very useful to mankind as pest-eaters, pollinators and so on. The "shrieking" is often closer to benign chirping/clicking. Sometimes, they're even Ridiculously Cute Critters.
The part about them spreading rabies is sort of true, though; the species is a natural reservoir for the virus (and also for the SARS virus), and if a bat's found in somebody's living space it's standard protocol to treat them for rabies just in case, especially since it's possible for a bat to bite you without you noticing, particularly if you're intoxicated or asleep. Only about 0.5% of bats in the United States actually have the rabies virus, but the small yearly number of human cases in the country can basically be divided into people who got bitten by mad dogs and people who got bitten by infected bats.
This is notGoddamned Bats (which is about any kind of annoying video game enemy), but the two categories frequently overlap.
Not to be confused with the album by Meat Loaf.
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Anime and Manga
The Chiropterans in Blood+ take the vampire/bat comparison and run with it (check out the name). Even the humanoid chiropterans get batlike features when they go One-Winged Angel.
Both played straight and inverted in one episode of the popular children's anime series, Dogtato, where a bat/apple hybrid visits the Veggie residents. Although sweet and kind in the day, during the night the bat/apple gets a Split Personality Takeover that causes it to bite all the veggie-hybrids, turning them into apples that roll up and gather together in the branches of a nearby apple tree where the bat holds residence. They return to normal in the morning.
Batman chose the bat as his symbol due to its fear-inducing properties (because bats specifically scared him as a child, and/or the superstitious nature of criminals in general). One of his villains, Man-Bat, is a Were Bat.
Dracula and his wives in Van Helsing can turn into a werebat. Their children were also bat creatures.
Marcus Corvinus of the Underworld series is the very first vampire, and significantly more bat-like than every other vampire. However, this is only after his corpse ingests Lycan blood, and his becoming a hybrid was overridden by his vampire genes, making him able to change into a batlike form.
The Peter Jackson King Kong features a cave of Dire Bats.
Technically, A Natural History of Skull Island identifies these creatures as winged carnivorous rodents, not true bats. Their looks still play off the killer-bat-from-hell trope, however.
FernGully's giant bat was actually a normal bat who just looks huge in comparison to fairies. He's also friendly, if a little addled.
Many large bats in Real Life have been saddled with taxonomic names containing vampire references, so Indy might well have been misled by this.
"DIE, DEVIL BIRD!!!" (No, it's not that the bats are actually creepy, but hell, his reaction is hilarious.)
"TAKE THAT, YOU WINGED SPAWN OF SATAAN!!!"
...and for those who might actually have missed it, Ace loves all animals... except bats, which he fears and loathes.
A giant bat steals Jeff Portnoy's bag of "jellybeans" (actually cocaine) in Tropic Thunder.
In the 1999 horror film Bats, people start to die in a small Texas town and the prime suspects are bats. A specialist in bats is called in, and reveals that the bats have been engineered to be become a deadly human-hunting cooperative.
A Direct-To-TV sequel to this film, Bats: Human Harvest, was made by the Sci Fi Channel in 2007.
Turned around in the Argentine computer animated movie Plumiferos (free birds). Clarita the bat frightens Feifi the sparrow at first during her new life of freedom out of her cage, but the misunderstanding is cleared up and they become good friends.
Averted in the 1997 film, Anastasia. Bartok the albino bat objects to his master's heinous acts, and gets beaten up by demonic insects. He got his own sequel called Bartok the Magnificent.
In the film Daybreakers, a virus which started in bats caused some of the human population to become vampires, eventually resulting in 95% of the human population becoming vampires. These vampires cannot transform into bats, but, if deprived of blood, they become batlike, animalistic creatures.
There's also the thing which is called a bat due to a vague resemblance in From a Buick 8.
The King Bats in The Princess Bride novel. They're one of the few things of which Fezzik is actually afraid.
Subverted in Spellsinger, where Pog the bat (oversized and intelligent, like nearly all animals in that world) is one of the nicer characters in the series.
Completely subverted (and also played straight, if you think about it) in Silverwing - the protagonists are bats. The story is about bats. Bats are the good guys, with birds and land mammals (the traditional heroes) as villains or at least bad-tempered (with a few exceptions). Granted, the main villain is also a bat...
However, in the third book, FirewingGriffin and Luna are literally bats out of Hell.
The pair of giant mutant bats in Vespers. They are also accompanied by huge swarms of normal bats, which are driven to attack by the influence of the giants.
Oddly averted in Redwall, which normally plays "good" and "evil" animal stereotypes straight. Mossflower's bats are perfectly nice, help the heroes, and speak with an odd nervous tic, nervous tic, nervous tic... This is explained by Word of God as the bats having spent their entire lives listening to their voices echo in the caves they live in, so now they provide their own echo.
Lois McMaster Bujold's fantasy series The Sharing Knife features "malices" which create monstrous servants by magically twisting animals into more-or-less human bodies, with at least some semblance of human intelligence. In Horizon (the fourth and so far final book of the series) a malice gets hold of an enormous cave-ful of bats (one character notes there are millions of bats in some of the caves in that region) and winds up creating a flying army of creatures somewhere between "Dire Bats" and "Were Bats", while the malice itself takes the form of an especially large and eerily beautiful Were Bat.
In After Man: A Zoology of the Future, an island-chain that emerged after humans' extinction happened to be reached by bats before birds, and they came to dominate its ecosystems. Bat-descended animals found there include seal-like surfbats, flightless bug-eaters that imitate flowers, and bizarre shrieking predators called "nightstalkers" that walk on their front limbs and claw with their back ones.
In one episode of The Office, a bat winds up loose in the titular office. Jim, playing to Dwight's usual Genre Blindness, convinces him that he was bitten and is turning into a vampire.
An episode of Married... with Children has a throw-away gag where Peg opens one of the cabinets in the family's kitchen to reveal a mass of cobwebs and a large bat flapping around. She wisely just closes it again.
Very large bats called "deathgleaners" appear in The Future Is Wild, and are creepy-looking predators and scavengers.
The Murcielago from NBC's Grimm are bat-like Wesen with the ability to emit a screech that can rupture windows, lungs, ear-drums and eyes.
The album trilogy of the same name by Meat Loaf surely deserves a mention. All three albums include cover art of a demonic bat (perhaps Satan in a beast form) in a hellish background and a muscle bound hero on a magic flying motorcycle. The animated video for "The Monster's Loose" brings all three album covers together by telling the story of the man with the motorcycle who rescues his (literally) angelic girlfriend from a giant bat. She narrowly escapes Damsel in Distress territory by saving him herself at one point.
The Camazotz of Mayan mythology was a bat-god associated with night, death and sacrifice. The name literally translates as "death bat". In the Popol Vuh, Camazotz are the bat-like monsters encountered by the Mayan Hero Twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque during their trials in the underworld of Xibalba. The twins had to spend the night in the House of Bats where they squeeze themselves into their own blowguns in order to defend themselves. When Hunahpu stuck his head out of his blowgun to see if the sun had risen, Camazotz immediately snatched off his head and carried it to the ballcourt to be hung up as the ball to be used by the gods in their next ballgame.
The "Moon-Hoax", a series of fake articles published in the New York Sun in the mid-19th century, convinced gullible readers that a new kind of telescope had revealed life forms on the moon's surface. At the climax of the series, a race of intelligent bat-people were "sighted", and subverted this trope by being peaceful vegetarians.
Mortasheen has three, created by vampires to protect their larder of humans. There's Bullysnag, a gorilla like bat that is trained to always go for the kneecaps when hunting, Clawsimon, a spotlight-like bat designed to stop escaping humans, and Chiraptor, who is the vampire equivalent of a hunting falcon. The actual bat vampire, Sinister, as it prefers to be left alone amongst its hordes of mind-controlled bats.
Vampire Counts from Warhammer have several bat units, including Bat Swarms (regular bat), Fell Bats (bigger bats), and Varghulfs (frickin' huge bat-like vampire monsters!). Winged Vampire Lords and Strigoi are more monstrous vampires with bat-like characteristics.
Several magical species of giant bat are found in the Forgotten Realms.
Subverted by D&D 3E's desmodu, bat-like subterranean humanoids which are actually the good guys.
Two of the minor domain lords in the Ravenloft setting are werebats.
The mobat is basically a dire bat, only smart, with a spike on its tail.
Giant bats in Basic D&D are the size of hawks, and about 10% are giant vampire bats with a paralytic bite.
Averted in Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Of all the various breeds that exist, including spiders, sharks and dinosaurs, the werebats are not one of them, having been wiped out several centuries ago. Werewolf: The Forsaken, however, allows them in the form of "skinchangers".
Mind you, the reason the Camazotz (the werebats) got eliminated in the first place is because the Shadow Lords who were part of the expeditions to South America fell prey to this trope. While the Camazotz served as Gaia's nocturnal messengers (not unlike the Corax, or wereravens), the Shadow Lords pointed out that anything with a shape like that had to be in thrall to the Wyrm (they weren't, as it happened). With the South American Camazotz wiped out, Bat, their totem, ended up falling to the Wyrm, dooming the surviving Australian Camazotz as their creation ritual became corrupted.
Then there's the bat swarm boss in Dawn of Sorrow.
Subverted and played straight in Symphony of the Night. The bats which attack you near the beginning are fairly weak enemies (ironically, the game has Goddamned Bats in many areas, but the actual bats aren't among them), and the giant bat boss appears, though it isn't a very strong boss. On the other hand, Alucard has a bat form (which you have to use to fully explore several areas and obtain various special items), and a bat familiar he can summon; bat-form Alucard can attack enemies with fireballs and sonar waves.
For another heroic subversion in the same series, Soma Cruz also gains the power to turn into a bat. Which makes sense, considering...
NetHack, despite its deserved reputation, is another game that features bats who are fairly weak enemies. The offshoot Slash'EM includes some more deadly varieties.
Resident Evil 0 had Billy and Rebbecca fight a giant bat and for bonus points it was in a church/graveyard.
Resident Evil 5 also had some kind of giant bat/insect creature as the boss for the second mission.
Nexus War has the Revenant class, which can summon a swarm of bats as a pet, turn into a small bat for faster travel, or turn into a werebat for increased strength and the ability to see invisible characters with echolocation.
The Keese from The Legend of Zelda are pretty average sized... but can light themselves on fire! ...Or ice!
Vampires in AdventureQuest normally turn into Werebats, and more powerful Vampires are always Werebats (except the queen). Werepyres are part wolf, part bat, but they look more like a bat than a wolf.
The Mario series has a lot of giant bat type enemies (Swoopers, Swampires, Swoopulas, Fangs, etc), most being roughly Mario or playable character sized and in some cases, annoying as they either swoop down or drain Mario's health.
Similarly, the Wario Land series has various kinds of creepy bats, from the annoying flying bomb-shaped bats which explode after attaching themselves to Wario, the bats in Wario Land 4 which turn him into a vampire just by touching him, the ones in Shake It which just swarm him, and whatever the heck Catbat is actually meant to be (some kind of flying cat thing with bat wings for ears, a mechanical bat head on it's head, that floats like a ghost).
Viva Pińata manages to invoke this with one of the wild and destructive sour pinatas. While sour it looks like a horror movie bat and makes other pinatas sick with its bite. Once you cure it (with garlic) it becomes... A rabbit-like thing with hilariously tiny wings.
Several of the Might and Magic games have enemy bats. They are not particularly dangerous, but they are rather unfriendly (and in Might & Magic VII, the most dangerous variant can attack you with fire).
The bats in the Trophy Room in Brain Dead 13. Somewhat downplayed when one of them (a giant bat) wraps around Lance and starts playfully chewing on his head while Lance gets a slightly irritated look, in one scene that is less of a death scene and more of a cutesy mosquito bite scene.
Both played straight and averted by the Komory Bat dream eater in Kingdom Hearts 3D. The creepy red eyes and dark colors their evil Nightmare versions possess give them a rather unsettling appearance, and they're the other kind of bat as well. On the other hand, the brightly colored friendly Spirit version is adorable and a surprisingly helpful ally in combat despite being one of the two starter dream eaters.
The Demons, large, flying surface predators in Metro 2033, allegedly evolved from tigers, though they resemble bats more than anything else.
Transformers: Ratbat, one of Soundwave's cassettes, turns into a bat (as his name belies). In the comics he was obsessed with using Energon efficiently. Decepticon hypnotist Mindwipe falls into this well complete with Hungarian Accent.
Subverted in the Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers episode "Good Times, Bat Times": Yes, Foxglove is a bat. And yes, she is a witch's familiar. But no, she is anything but horrifying. Instead, she is a cute and lovable bat the size of a chipmunk and in love with Dale.
The Emperor's New Groove: When Kuzco and Pacha are attempting to climb out of the chasm they have fallen into, Kuzco (as a llama) rams his mouth and nose into a small cave opening, which is of course revealed to be full of bats. The bats all immediately attempt to flee, leading to... blech!
Completely averted in one episode of The Wild Thornberrys, where vampire bats are rightly shown as flighty and timid of Eliza and Darwin.
Averted in "The Brave Little Bat", a Merrie Melodies short directed by Chuck Jones and featuring Sniffles. Batty, the titular character, briefly looks scary in the shadows. When he walks into the light, he's a chatty, cute little guy who looks like Sniffles, but with pointier ears. He also wears Dutch wooden shoes and a Chico Marx hat.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic couldn't avert this trope any harder. Normal bats, though "dark and mysterious", are perfectly viable pets, and Fruit Bats (literally bats with fruit-like features) are entirely harmless, though inconveniently ravenous at times – a flock may chew on your fruit salad hat if you're not careful. Both kinds aren't any less cute than any other small animal in the series.
Spectral Bats, who have 3-foot long wingspans and are the largest carnivorous bat alive, will eat anything smaller than it and will hunt other bats as well. Except that bats with offspring are very good mothers and fathers. The male will even sleep with the mother and young in his wings.
Real vampire bats avert this trope through their altruistic social behavior. Bats who come home with full bellies will regurgitate blood to feed hungry flockmates, even when the recipients aren't related to them.
There was, during the Pleistocene, a species of giant vampire bat Desmodus draculae. They were roughly one and a half times as large as a modern vampire bat, or the size of a smallish fruit bat.
On the other hand they can be considered as pest as they can carry rabies.
An American dentist investigated the possibility of rigging bats with tiny explosive charges, to be carried into the rafters of Japanese buildings in World War II. The bat-bombs were never deployed, and a Disastrous Demonstration resulted in some escaped bats blowing up the researcher's own workshops.
In Spain, bats were believed to be a sign of good fortune, and this belief traveled over to the New World. When Dona Amalia (the wife of one of the founders of Bacardi) saw leaf-nosed fruit bats roosting in the original still, she thus interpreted this as a sign that her husband's business venture would be a success, and came up with the idea to use a bat as the company's logo.