Extremely effective idea gets an admirable treatment, 70s style, in this seemingly lost film that concerns a group of strangers "selected" by computer to enter a hi-tech bomb shelter. There's no explanation given as to when this is supposed to be taking place, but that doesn't matter, we can clearly tell that this is the 1970s, due to the groovy "space-age" decor and the fact that several of the cast members have a sleazy 70s porno look to them, particularly Alex Cord (which sounds like a porno name anyway!).
We never see the characters in their real lives, we meet them as they are flown via helicopter to a remote desert location. They are shuttled into an elevator which carries them nearly two miles into the ground to a futuristic underground shelter. Well, at least it's what was considered futuristic in 1974. Some of the stuff in there is so kitschy it's funny, like the big rolling readout clock that changes numbers like the speedometer on a car.
An annoying female guide makes pre-programmed announcements on their giant video screen, her voice electronically altered for maximum futurism and irritation. She explains that the entire planet has been wiped out by nuclear weapons and that they are part of an effort to keep mankind alive. They, along with other shelters of people in other locations, will survive the holocaust and restart society once the nuclear threat is over. What they don't predict is that thousands of vampire bats from a nearby cave will find their way into the shelter and kill the survivors in a series of vicious attacks.
The film has a reputation for being gory, which it really is not; the special effects are surprisingly good, although dated, with the bats mostly being realized by blue-screen composites. Still, there are several shots of the bats swarming out of small openings that really get under your skin.
The other dated aspects of the film (like the aforementioned decor, hairstyles, and clothing) threaten to drag it into the realm of the absurd, too. However, the movie remains extremely grim and effective in spite of all that. Bradford Dillman is great as a duplicitous scientist involved with the survival project, harboring a secret that turns the other shelter members against him. Once the threat of the bats is realized, the humans realize they must stick together in order to deal with the problem, and the expected dissent and infighting threatens to turn them all into bat food.
The one thing that keeps the movie from being better is the overall silliness of the situation, particularly the death scenes. We can't help but wonder how anybody could be killed by vampire bats, especially when we view the corpses of the victims, which look like a series of bad shaving accidents. What exactly is causing these people to die? A dozen or so bites on the skin? How deep could those wounds be? Although bats evoke a sense of revulsion, and they're damn ugly, they're not life-threatening. If the violence were more shocking, it could have made the dread a little more palpable.
However, since "Chosen Survivors" isn't only about bat attacks, there's more to hold our interest. The claustrophobic environment of the shelter is extremely disturbing in some places, and one of the best sequences involves an escape attempt where one of the characters climbs precariously up the mile-plus-long elevator shaft. It's a nightmarish set piece, the idea of which alone is enough to give me the shudders.
As a matter of fact, I am wondering if the print I saw wasn't edited in some way. It seems like some of the character development was missing; for instance, some of the characters paired up into couples, and I never saw one scene that established any of them hooking up. This didn't bother me though, it made the movie even more bizarre and dreamlike, somewhat European.
If you can find a copy of "Chosen Survivors" I would say it's definitely worth the effort. The film seems to have slipped away into oblivion, but unofficial copies are floating around out there, apparently struck from 16mm prints of the film that still exist. Watching it may bring back the delicious dread of the scary 70s movies for you.
Review by GroovyDoom from the Internet Movie Database.