There’s really only one lesson to be learned from the 1972’s Night of the Lepus.
There is absolutely no way to make a rabbit look menacing.
Oh sure, you can film them in slow motion. And you can add a lot of weird sound effects and you can do a lot of extreme close-ups to make them look bigger than they actually are. You can do a lot of stuff as a part of your effort to make a rabbit into a scary monster but you’ll pretty much be wasting you time. Rabbits are simply not intimidating. There’s a reason why the idea of a killer rabbit was so funny in Monty Python and The Holy Grail.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m enough of country girl that I know the damage that wild rabbits can do. They eat crops. They eat bark. They chew on irrigations lines. If you’re a farmer or even just someone who wants to maintain a nice garden, you know that rabbits can be a nuisance.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that there’s nothing really menacing rabbits. Rabbits are cute and, for the most part, they’re fairly timid. They’re aware that, in the brutal world of nature, they’re designated prey and, as a result, they try to stay out of the way. Rabbits are shy and they hop around and there’s absolutely nothing frightening about them.
(We actually have quite a few rabbits in my neighborhood. It’s not unusual for me to see one hopping through the front yard. Whenever I go for a run in the early evening hours, it’s not unusual for me to see several rabbits hopping through a nearby park.)
Night of the Lepus is a strange film that attempts to make rabbits frightening. It takes place in the southwest and it features a bunch of mutated, giant rabbits who hop around the desert in slow motion and who savagely kill everyone that they meet. The plot makes it sound like a spoof but Night of the Lepus takes itself very seriously, which needless to say is a mistake. It even opens with documentary footage that’s designed to make sure that we understand that rabbits are actually very dangerous. It’s all very odd and you have to wonder why, out of all the wild animals in the southwest, the filmmakers decided to go with the least intimidating creature possible. I mean, there are coyotes and Gila monsters in the desert. Imagine having a giant coyote coming at you. That would be scary!
Instead, we get giant rabbits, attacking a cast of actors who definitely deserved better. Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, DeForest Kelly, they’re all talented actors and, in this film, they’re reduced to fighting a bunch of giant rabbits. No one comes across particularly well, though just about everyone in the cast does manage to keep a straight face. Still, the problem is that the rabbits are just too damn cute. Even after they’ve killed half the cast, you still don’t want anything to happen to them. When Whitman and Calhoun opened fire on a group of rabbits and killed a few of them, I actually found myself getting mad at the humans. Leave the rabbits alone! I thought. You humans have had your chance! This the land of rabbits now!
Anyway, Night of the Lepus is silly but it’s kind of fun, just because the giant rabbits are cute. They’re kind of like the giant guinea pigs that attacked South Park a few seasons ago. They’re murderous but they’re adorable!