Have I got a horror movie for you guys today. From the dark times of the giant monster movies known as the 70’s, comes one of the worst movies of the genre. Oh yeh. Giant killer rabbits are definitely the scariest thing on the planet. When I first saw this movie years ago, the first thing that honestly went through my head was “What is Bones from Star Trek doing with a mustache?” Then of course, I watched the rest of the movie and….well….you will just have to see for yourself as I review today’s movie, Night Of The Lepus.
The plot: A TV news anchor talks about how in Australia, rabbits have become a menace to the population due to their rapid reproduction and eating all of their crops and then mentions that the same thing is happening in the American Southwest. In Arizona, rancher Cole Hillman is forced to shoot his horse when it breaks it’s leg after stepping in a rabbit hole. Walking back to his ranch, he calls and visits Professor Elgin Clark to discuss the problem, but doesn’t want to use the same guy that dealt with the coyotes as he is the reason for the surge in the rabbit population. Elgin goes to see Roy and Gerry Bennett, visiting scientists that are working on using bats to deal with insect problems and convinces them to help out Roy before Cole and the other ranchers are forced to use poison on them. Heading out to Cole’s ranch with their daughter Amanda, Roy and Gerry talk with Cole and find out how long they have to work on the problem and take some captured rabbits back to the lab with them. At the lab, they work on altering the rabbits’ hormones so they won’t have as many offspring but when that doesn’t seem to work, they try a new serum on one of the rabbits but the one they used is a rabbit that Amanda is fond of and when they aren’t looking, she switches the rabbit with one from the control group. When Gerry goes to collect some more rabbits from Cole’s ranch, Amanda goes with her and brings the rabbit, which Roy had given to her as a pet, but Jackie, Cole’s son, grabs the rabbit and releases it, where it heads down into a nearby burrow. Later, Roy and Gerry notice that the serum has caused the rabbits to start growing and Cole decides to burn the vegetation on his land in order to stop the rabbits. Some time later, the Bennetts are riding around Cole’s ranch with Cole and Jackie when they notice a strange track near a pond. Jackie takes Amanda to see Captain Billy, an old prospector that owns a gold mine nearby but when they get there, they don’t see him around. As Jackie looks around his cabin, Amanda looks in the mine and sees Billy’s body and starts screaming. Amanda is brought to Cole’s ranch and the doctor says she is suffering from mild shock but when they ask Jackie, he says he didn’t see anything. That night, a truck driver pulls over to check his cargo and is attacked by the giant rabbits. A police deputy finds the truck in the morning and calls in the sheriff to look at the body and they get word of Billy, as well as a family of 4 that have also been killed. When they hear about what is going on, Roy, Gerry, and Elgin go with Cole and some of his workers to the mine. At the mine, they plan on using dynamite and gas to deal with the rabbits. Roy and Cole go inside the mine so Roy can get a picture of the rabbits and find a horde of them inside and quickly run out of there. Outside, one of the workers is attacked by a rabbit but Gerry manages to shoot it and scare it off. When Roy and Cole exit the mine, the worker sets off the dynamite and the mine is collapsed on top of the rabbits. That night, the surviving rabbits burrow free from the mine and make their way towards Cole’s ranch. Sensing the rabbits, Cole’s horses break free from their corral and run off but they are attacked by the rabbits. Cole, Frank, Jackie, and his housekeeper hide in the cellar but Jack, the worker that was attacked at the mine, drives off in a truck but when he sees the rabbits, he turns around and heads back to the ranch but is killed after he wrecks the truck. The rabbits continue their rampage, attacking the general store and another farmhouse and killing the people inside. The next day, Roy sends Gerry and Amanda to a nearby town and heads off with Elgin to meet Sheriff Cody and go look at the mine, where they find a hole that the rabbits dug to escape the mine. Meanwhile, Cole walks into town and finds the rabbits inside the store and garage and manages to flag down a car to get a ride so he can call Sheriff Cody. The national guard are called in to help and they try to figure out what to do before night falls and the rabbits start moving again. Roy comes up with a plan to electrify a portion of the railroad tracks near town to use as an electric fence to keep the rabbits at bay, allowing the military, police, and everyone else to kill them. Having had no contact with Gerry and Amanda, Roy goes in the helicopter to look for them and finds where they had gotten stuck in the sand and Gerry is fending off the rabbits with flares. Roy heads back to the train tracks just as the rabbits start showing up and between the electrified train tracks and the gunfire, they are all killed. Some time later, Cole meets with Roy at the university and tells him that things seem to be back to normal and invites Roy and his family to visit the ranch again, which Roy happily accepts.
Night Of The Lepus was heavily panned by the critics, holding a 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, the critics pretty much lambasted everything from the acting, the story, and the special effects. The studio did their best to keep the animals a secret from the audience before the movie was released but they kind of let the secret out of the bag when some promotional materials with rabbit’s foot themes on them. The movie has become a cult film, eventually getting released on DVD 33 years after it hit theaters, and has been featured on Rifftrax, the movie spoofing series hosted by former MST3K members.
Definitely one of those so bad it’s good movie. The acting was ok but considering some of the people starring in the movie, you would have expected better. The story was weak, but I will give props to the studio for trying to make rabbits appear to be ferocious killers. The special effects are as bad as you have ever heard, with several scenes using rabbits next to models while close-ups involved people in costumes. Some of the scenes of rabbits killing people were pretty laughable, such as them killing the general store owner and her screaming when nothing was really happening. Despite all the terrible aspects involved in this movie, this is still a fun movie to watch because of how bad it is.
Rating: 3 out of 5