FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jan 31, 2007

Animals Run Amok Week: Day 3

Once in a blue moon, a movie comes along that feels as if it sprung fully-formed from my forehead, not unlike Athena from that of Zeus. One such movie is today's feature, Night of the Lepus (1972), a movie that has so much in it I enjoy that it's hard to believe it's not a dream. A movie with a line like "There's a herd of killer rabbits headed this way!" just seems too good to be true, doesn't it? Rest assured, though, the film actually exists- and it features Rory Calhoun, Janet Leigh, and a mustachioed DeForest Kelley. Life is so good sometimes.

Arizona's very existence is threatened by an explosion in the rabbit population. Rather than simply poisoning the little bastards (for fear of throwing the entire ecosystem out of whack), the very scientific, very married team of Roy and Gerry Bennett (Stuart Whitman and Janet Leigh) are called in to come up with a nature-but-not-rabbit-friendly solution.

Back at The Lab, Team Bennett starts injecting bunnies with various serums in an attempt to curb the population. Thanks to their stupid daughter (Melanie Fullerton), a doped-up bunny is released into the wild. Somehow the serum causes the rabbit to grow to a massive size and develop a taste for human flesh. How one bunny became hundreds in a day (that's fast, even for rabbits, I'm pretty sure) and how these docile herbivores became ravenous carnivores isn't explained, but I don't care! the important thing here is that there are herds of massive rabbits roaming the desert terrorizing towns and looking for humans upon which to feed!

Night of the Lepus was made in those heady pre-CGI days, and I'm ever-so-thankful for it. While I can't say the effects are "great", I find that there's something inherently charming in the approach here: regular-sized rabbits tromping through miniature sets. What it amounts to are lots of shots of rabbits running intercut with shots of rabbits leaping and maybe a big, fake rabbit paw smacking someone in the face. The secret here, the filmmakers seem to think, is that is you play weird mood music and show the rabbits running in slow motion, they'll seem big. It's hokey, to be certain, but it's also the sort of movie magic that makes me feel like a kid again. That's a rare treat, my friends.

While there is a surprisingly large amount of blood in the movie, by far the most horrifying thing onscreen is this unfortunate attack of male-pattern baldness, which I have decided to call The Dollop:

Poor thing.

Night of the Lepus is about as simple and straightforward as you can get: big rabbits attack! It's the perfect Saturday afternoon movie, to be viewed right after a morning full of cartoons. I give it 6 out of 10 footie pajamas.


Anonymous said...

I remember loving this flick as a kid. Seeing it a few years ago, I realized it drags quite a bit. But the site of superimposed giant bunnies stampeding around a rural community never ceases to bring me joy...even now. Ah, those were the days.

Stacie Ponder said...

You're right- it DOES drag. That's what happens when your plot is just "big rabbits attack!"- they gallop, they attack, they gallop, they gallop some more, they gallop...

It's fun stuff, though. This was the first time I'd seen it, and I found myself sort of nostalgic over it anyway, you know?

And bunnies are cute, even when they're big ad covered with blood!

Unknown said...

I've really never heard anyone outside of my circle of friends refer to something as a "Saturday afternoon movie"

I'm kinda glad that someone else uses that term.

Anonymous said...

"Night of the Lepus was made in those heady pre-CGI days, and I'm ever-so-thankful for it."

This is totally true. I hate CGI and because of watch more and more 80s movies. This decade rocked :) "Night of the Lepus" was too long on my "did't watch yet" list, it is time to upgrade it :)

Anonymous said...

I really had to pause the movie when the man in the bunny suit attacked, for I was laughing too hard for the film to continue.

Anonymous said...

Roar! Rampant Rabbits Killing!


Amanda By Night said...

I love this movie. I'm so glad it FINALLY got released on DVD, and I promptly bought it.

It's oddities like this that make me yearn for the 70s. Well that AND Stuart "Me-ow" Whitman. That guy's got it!

David Lee Ingersoll said...

I'm under the delusion that there are no bad ideas, just bad executions of ideas. Giant rabbits could be scary with the right attitude.