They were born that tragic moment when science made its great mistake…now from behind the shroud of night they come, a scuttling, shambling horde of creatures destroying all in their path. How many eyes does horror have? How many times will terror strike?
The “hippie revolution” of the 1960s, the “flower children”, preached a lot about love. Love within mankind, but also about loving the Earth, This spilled over into the ecological awareness of the 70s. And horror/sci-fi movies took notice. Whereas radiation and atomic fallout spawned many creature features of the 50s, many genre movies in the 70s turned to ecological factors for their films…over population (Soylent Green), air pollution (Godzilla vs The Smog Monster), the ecological statement of Mother Earth striking back (Frogs), and the hole in the ozone layer bringing on The Day of The Animals. And then there was the rising population of certain animal species getting out of control. Like rabbits–genus lepus.
Night of the Lepus opens with a man behind a desk giving a news report telling us over population isn’t confined to the human race. He goes on to relay a story of a rabbit population explosion in Australia in the 1950s which created chaos as the rabbits were eating up crops and causing a lot of damage.
Then the focus moves to a ranch in Arizona owned by Rory Calhoun (a big star of Westerns doing his first horror movie here). He is forced to shoot his horse when it steps in a rabbit hole and breaks its leg. A family, scientists Stuart Whitman and Janet Leigh and their young daughter, are working on a safe, eco-friendly way to combat the rabbit problem.
The doctors notice that the serum they’ve come up with has a side effect of increasing the rabbits’ size. When their daughter liberates one of the test subjects–her favorite bunny–it’s not long before hordes of giant rabbits are on the loose!
The rabbits–now the size of cows–cut a path of destruction through the town. They also are hungry and start chomping down on the townsfolk. Queue Dr. Science here….rabbits are herbivores. They don’t eat meat. Their metabolisms don’t handle meat well. It would ultimately kill them.
Hey, then, problem solved. They wouldn’t need to resort to blowing up rabbit holes. Alas, if making rabbits carnivorous was the only issue then this movie would have had it made. But, unfortunately, it’s not. First off, the one test rabbit released by the little girl would have had to mate with other bunnies to pass along the growth factor. Yet the giant rabbits start their carnivorous crusade about 24-48 hours after it is released. So maybe the serum had the effect of rapid aging as well? Yeah, right.
Based on the 1964 book “Year Of The Angry Rabbit”, Night Of The Lepus was originally going to be called Rabbits. But the producers didn’t think people would go to a horror movie called Rabbits. So, they smartly changed the title to the bunny’s genus…lepus. However, changing the title to hide the fact the movie was about killer rabbits didn’t change the fact that this film by any name was purely and simply ludicrous. When the rabbits aren’t all jumping around and sat idle, they looked like your average Peter Cotton Tail. Not imposing at all. Nevertheless, despite all its silliness, it’s probably the best Easter horror movie ever made! A guilty pleasure to be sure…but isn’t that what all these B-movies featuring giant bugs, green slime, walking tree monsters and the like really are? You’re not supposed to take them that seriously. And you have to give the producers credit. I mean who in the world would think to do a giant monster bunny movie?