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Bats in the Belfry

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Bats in the Belfry is a homemade 2010 dark comedy animated short film created by João Alves. The film features the voice of Rita Soares as the woman in peril, while all other aspects of the film were made by João himself. The film premiered on October 2010 at the MOTELx film fest. The short had a festival run of 4 years, in both horror and animation film fests in Europe, Brazil, United Kingdom and Australia.

Although with some praise in Portugal, internationally the short received mixed reviews at horror fests for not being scary enough and amateurish[1] and at animation film fests for it's lack of originality in the animation and design of the characters. Some calling it a Dexter's Lab and Samurai Jack ripoff.[2][3] Overall there was confusion around the creatures, some calling it zombies and some calling it what they truly are, vampires.[4]

poster for the original release of "Bats in the Belfry"
Original poster for "Bats in the Belfry"


As the moon rises in the old west night sky, a robber named "Deadeye" Jack Cage blasts his way into a Spanish mission, to resume a robbery that was interrupted earlier in the day by the Sheriff. However, unbeknownst to Jack, the mission has been occupied by vampires that pose as missionaries to lure in prey. Jack tries to bargains with the vampires to let him go with the money bags, and in exchange he would not interfere with the slaughter. The vampires threaten him and he proceeds to shoot as many as he can in order to secure his loot. A woman is about to be eaten by a vampire and Jack interferes, taking one of the vampires as a hostage to exchange for her. Jack makes it clear that he's not rescuing her out of kindness but out of need to have a extra pair or hands to carry the money bags to the horse, since he's currently holding two guns. As soon as the woman exists the mission with the cash, Jack goes back on his word and kills the vampire hostage. The main vampire lunges at Jack, but he's able to dodge the attack and shove some TNT into the vampire's throat. The woman finishes settling the horses just as Jack runs out of the mission. They jump on the horses and ride away, as the TNT inside the main vampire explodes killing him and several other vampires turned into bats.

Now in the clear Jack asks the woman for the money bags on her horse's settle but before she can say anything a giant worm comes out of the ground and eats her and the horse whole. The creature growls at Jack, that turn to it and demands his money back.



In 2006 João was straight out of college and wanting to make something that stood out in the portuguese animation scene. He couldn't remember any new westerns since Unforgiven, so he decided to make one. Being a horror fan, he decided to make it a supernatural western, with cowboys and vampires. Feeling that at the time heroes were too good and villains too evil, João wanted to create in the protagonist someone with a grayer moral code, in the vein of Snake Plissken. Taking equal parts of Clint Eastwood and Xander Cage, the anti-hero Deadeye Jack was created. João drew a rough storyboard in tiny thumbnail, that depicted overall the same story as the final version, but with much more elaborate action scenes. The intention was to have this be a pilot of a TV show that depicted the adventures of Deadeye Jack, a robber in the old west that was trying to outsmart the law while stumbling into supernatural events and creatures.

Due to lack of contacts and starting to work full time shortly after starting the storyboard, the project was shelfed.

Turning the pilot into a short[edit]

Three years later, while attending MOTELx, João attended the premiere of Papá Wrestling, and not only loved it but witnessed first hand the effect a short film could have in a room full of horror fans. The packed cinema was cheering and laughing by the end of it. At that moment João decided he would make a short of his own, but didn't. It wasn't until June of 2010 that upon seeing on Facebook a post announcing that years MOTELx that he decided to take action. With the full on support of his girlfriend, he started working on the short everyday from 10pm to 4am, while working fulltime from 9am to 6pm. This lasted for 9 weeks, having delivered the short at the MOTELx offices 2 hours before the end of the deadline for submissions.

During those 9 weeks the short changed tone from "Robert Rodriguez to Sergio Leone", with more build up and tension, having the action be very restrained to small, intense bursts. The storyboard was completely remade, scanned and used with a temp audio as a very rough animatic. The music was made using a trial version of Fruit Loops, the sounds were part from free online libraries and part foley recorded at home and the voices were recorded on the microphone that came with the speakers. The 3D elements were created using Blender and the 2D animation was made with Anime Studio. Due to how slow the computer was, he would have to burn a DVD disc with the current state of the short whenever a new sequence was added, to watch it on his PS2 in real time and figure out if the editing needed adjustments.

Test audience[edit]

Before it's release, the director screened the short to his colleagues at LisbonLabs. Opinions were mixed, but everyone agreed the fight scene was too short and confusing. It took a weekend to extend that sequence.

Comercial releases[edit]

In 2013, ZON Audiovisuais paired Bats in the Belfry with Machete Kills[5][6][7], showing the short before the feature in 20 theaters across the Portuguese territory, including the islands.

Online releases[edit]

The now extinct FEARnet.com licenced the short for their website in 2012[8], where it was shown with a short intro by the director.

In 2018 El Rey Network licenced the short as part of their The People's Network animation lineup[9]. They flew the director to the Los Angeles El Rey Network studios, were the director met Jorge Gutierrez, that was hosting the lineup.

In March 2019 the short was released on Amazon's Prime Video in the US, UK and Germany.

"Fledermäuse im Glockenturm" poster
German poster for the Amazon.de Prime Video release

DVD release[edit]

PixelBunker, one of the MOTELx sponsors, edited a DVD release that included several audio commentaries by the author, the complete storyboard and several vignettes detailing several aspects of the production process like foley and music making. In December 2015 the author made the DVD available for download for free on his YouTube channel[10], due to not wanting the work on it to go to waste and the fact that the DVD market was clearly disappearing.



  • MOTELx - Best Portuguese Horror Short 2010[11][12]
  • ShortCutz - Best Animation 2010
  • Fantasporto - Best Young Director 2011[13]
  • Farcume - Best Animation 2011[14]
  • Bragacine - Best Director 2011[15]
  • Cinanima - Best Young Director >18 2011[16]
  • Festival de Cinema Digital de Odemira - 3rd Best Short[17][18]
  • Animação - Best international Short 2014[19]


  • ShortCutz Lisboa - Best Short of the Month


  1. "User-submitted review of "Bats in the Belfry"". IMDb. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
  2. Filmpuff (18 March 2012). "Not a film critic: Cineuphórica pela animação!". Not a film critic. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
  3. "Bats in the Belfry | socialpsychol". Retrieved 2019-04-15.
  4. Santiago, Aníbal (16 January 2012). "Rick's Cinema: Curtas de Animação às Segundas - Bats in the Belfry". Rick's Cinema. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
  5. "MOTELX". pt-pt.facebook.com (in português). Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  6. Pinto, João. "Curta Premiada Bats in the Belfry, de João Alves, Vai Acompanhar as Sessões de Machete Kills". Portal Cinema. Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  7. hussardo (2013-10-25). "Bats in the Belfry – Morcegos no Campanário (2010)". A Grande Ilusão (in português). Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  8. Pinto, João. "Curta Premiada Bats in the Belfry, de João Alves, Vai Acompanhar as Sessões de Machete Kills". Portal Cinema. Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  9. Medina, Joseph Jammer. "El Rey Network To Air Handpicked Animated Shorts, Hosted By Book Of Life Director". Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  10. Martins, Carlos. "DVD do Bats in the Belfry gratuito para download". Retrieved 2019-04-03.
  11. Furtado, Elsa (2010-10-06). ""Bats in the Belfry" foi a curta vencedora do MOTELx 2010". C&H, Revista Online de Cultura, Lazer e Viagens (in português). Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  12. MOTELX. "2010 - Edições Anteriores // MOTELX - Festival Internacional de Cinema de Terror de Lisboa". MOTELX - Festival Internacional de Cinema de Terror de Lisboa (in português). Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  13. "Fantasporto". www.fantasporto.com. Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  14. "João Alves - Vencedor da categoria Animação (2011)". FARCUME. Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  15. "FESTIVAL BRAGACINE". www.bragacineindependente.com. Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  16. Resende, Tiago (2011-11-13). "Cinanima 2011: Os vencedores". Cinema 7.ª Arte (in português). Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  17. "Nuno Rocha vence prémio de ″realizador revelação″". www.dn.pt (in português). Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  18. "Nuno Rocha é o grande vencedor do Festival de Cinema Digital de Odemira". www.riomira.com. Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  19. Oficina da Terra art studio, Prêmio - Melhor curta LIVRE - Bats in the Belfry - João Alves | Festival AnimaAção 2014, retrieved 2019-01-24

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