Surprise surprise, it turns out it is very challenging to make rabbits scary. Case in point the 1972 horror film Night of the Lepus, starring Janet Leigh, DeForest Kelley, Stuart Whitman, and a whole lot of cute little fluffy bunnies. After a population explosion of rabbits, scientists Leigh and Whitman try to find a way to curtail the growth and cut down on the damage the rabbits are doing to farms. They want to go about it in a humane way without the use of deadly chemicals, since that could also harm other animals. So what they do instead is inject them with an unknown hormone modifier that causes the rabbits to grow up to 150lbs. No longer are they intent on eating grass and plants, they now are hungry for human flesh. Why they turn into carnivores is never explained.
Night of the Lepus has a silly plot, so the best way to combat this silliness is going all out and having fun with it. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case with this flick. Instead, the film plays it serious and it results in a rather dull movie. There are times where you think the movie is going to get exciting, like for an example a scene that takes place at a drive-in. You expect some killer rabbit mayhem, but instead, a cop shows up and tells folks a herd of killer rabbits are on the way and it’s time to leave. So they all leave without a question. What the hell? Night of the Lepus also has a tendency to reuse the same footage of the rabbits over and over again. The movie also doesn’t try very hard with its special effects, such as the electrically charged rail track scene near the end. However, I did get a kick out of seeing stuffed rabbits being shot, with copious amounts of blood flying and the rabbits spinning off-screen in slow motion.
Night of the Lepus tries too hard to be serious and that results in a film that may have your eyes going heavy and your head nodding. There is some unintentional hilarity that happens, but that is mainly due to the cheap special effects (man in giant bunny suit jumping on people) and the weird music/sound effects whenever the rabbits are on-screen marching in slow motion. This looks to be the only film out there about giant killer rabbits, and I think we all can see why more of its kind was never made.
Night of the Lepus was released on Blu-ray from Scream Factory back in June 2018, and yes I am only now getting around to checking it out. (My fellow cohort Ryne reviewed it on Cultsploitation when it came out and like me, he found it boring as well.) As for the Blu-ray, Scream provides viewers with a new 2K scan from the original film elements and the results are fairly pleasant. There are moments of dirt and scratches that pop up on the screen, but for the most part, the film has a nice even film grain. Nighttime scenes are never too dark, which means you can clearly see those hilarious rabbit deaths. Audio is provided in DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, and I noticed no issues with the soundtrack and dialogue. Yes, the amazingly bad music comes blaring through your speakers just fine.
The Blu-ray is light on special features unless you enjoy audio commentaries. Scream Factory has provided two new audio commentaries with one from film critic and author Lee Gambin, and the other from film historian Russell Dyball. The only other extras on the disc are in the form of a Trailer, TV and radio spots and a Still Gallery.
- NEW 2K Scan From The Original Film Elements
- NEW Audio Commentary By Author Lee Gambin (Massacred By Mother Nature: Exploring The Natural Horror Film)
- NEW Audio Commentary By Pop Culture Historian Russell Dyball
- Theatrical Trailer (1:45)
- TV Spot (0:23)
- Radio Spot (0:34)
- Still Gallery (4:46)
Night of the Lepus takes itself way too seriously for a flick about giant killer rabbits. It effectively killed off the subgenre (was there ever going to be one?) even though they could have done something campy and special. Nevertheless, if you like the movie, Scream Factory has your back with a solid looking Blu-ray which comes packed with two audio commentaries. That means you get to watch the film at least twice! Yay?