I think rabbits are some of the cutest creatures on this planet. They’re so cute, in fact, that I would hazard a guess that you could have a film where the only thing shown is a rabbit sitting there, eating hay, and I’d still enjoy it. Night of the Lepus features a lot of rabbits, and as a result, one might think that it would be worth watching just because the little creatures that are featured. One would be wrong.
The film opens with a fake news report about rabbits. I was already having fun. But, the news report tells us that there are too many rabbits, and that they threaten to destroy crops, or something like that. My interest was focused on the cute, little bunny rabbits, so I was having a difficult time listening to the stuffy news reporter. We then cut to a man named Cole (Rory Calhoun), who falls off his horse because, you guessed it, rabbits are there. I’m not sure whether the horse was tripped by the little critters, or if it was just too busy staring at them like I was, but it falls and ends up being put down.
So, apparently the rabbits are a problem. Cole’s a farmer, and if they eat all of his crops, he’ll go out of business, end up losing his farm, die of hunger, and probably have his grave trampled on by these furry varmints. He heads to some scientists, Roy (Stuart Whitman) and Gerry (Janet Leigh), who are trying to figure out how to get rid of creatures without the use of poison. They have a daughter, Amanda (Melanie Fullerton), who is probably one of the most annoying child characters I can remember in films.
Tests are performed on the rabbits in hope that the scientists will be able to interrupt their breeding cycles, eventually causing them to die off. After some failures, they decide to use a serum that was sent to their office just that morning. They don’t even know what it does, but decide to inject it anyway, considering they don’t think that the rabbit will ever get away. Amanda, deciding that this infected rabbit is one she wants, switches it with a controlled one while her parents aren’t looking, before being allowed to take home a “controlled” rabbit, which, if you weren’t paying close attention, is actually the one injected with this untested serum.
The rabbit escapes in the next scene, although Amanda doesn’t seem to care very much. I suppose that elaborate escape method that she used to get this specific bunny was done just because she thinks messing up scientific experiments is enjoyable. Anyway, it turns out that the untested serum makes giant rabbits, and since it can be spread easily, this means that soon enough, there are giant rabbits everywhere. Can you get cuter?
It turns out, giant rabbits are killing machines. The injection didn’t just give them a size increase; it also gave them a taste for blood and destruction. For most of the film, we get humans fighting against the rabbits, with the latter party generally winning out, thanks to the fact that they’re giant rabbits. Who would expect rabbits to be giant, and more importantly, who thinks that rabbits will want to kill humans?
When Night of the Lepus works, it’s because it focuses solely on bunny rabbits doing something cute, like running around the countryside, nesting in a doll house, or eating a human. Yes, all three of those things are cute, at least, they are as they’re portrayed here. Even when a rabbit is “eating” someone, all we really see are a bunch of close ups on the its face, with a bunch of ketchup smeared on it. We see the rabbit lick the ketchup off, or even appear to smile. These moments are so cute and I just wanted to hug the bunnies whenever they were “eating” a person.
To make the rabbits large — well, I’m not actually sure what was done, but it’s kind of funny. I know at times they used miniature sets, while in other moments, they use a suit that doesn’t at all look like a giant rabbit. When the giants are running around, everything is slowed down because — I’m not sure why, either. Do things look less menacing in slow motion? I know that it means we get to see the rabbits for longer, and they’re just so adorable that I can’t complain about that, but if the filmmakers were trying to scare us, they failed.
However, the film isn’t all just giant bunny rabbits running around doing things. We also get human characters who frequently turn up and do nothing of importance. They want to stop the rabbits, I suppose because they want to live or something silly like that, but none of them have any real character and I didn’t care if any of them would live. That’s especially true of the daughter, Amanda, who I swear did things just to annoy me whenever possible, despite never being punished for her terrible behavior. I definitely wanted to see her get mauled by a rabbit, or a person in a rabbit costume, although she lives for way too long of the film.
Night of the Lepus has to be seen to be believed, but don’t take that as a recommendation. The humans are shown far too frequently to make this film worthwhile, and all of the characters made the film too cumbersome to be worthwhile. The bunnies were cute, though, and seeing them roam around miniature sets and lick ketchup from their face is cute and made me laugh quite often, but these scenes are not worth sitting through watching all of these annoying people do nothing of importance.