Fresh on Blu-ray: ‘NIGHT OF THE LEPUS’ – a killer rabbit movie to bite into

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

NIGHT OF THE LEPUS

Rated PG (but more like PG-13), 88 minutes.
Director:
Cast: Stuart WhitmanJanet LeighRory CalhounDeForest KelleyPaul FixMelanie FullertonChris MorrellChuck HaywardHenry WillsFrancesca Jarvis and William Elliott
Available today on Blu-ray through shoutfactory.com/shop.

Just when you thought you’ve seen it all, Scream Factory restores 1972’s NIGHT OF THE LEPUS — a horror movie about giant mutated carnivorous killer bunny rabbits that terrorize some towns in the south west. It’s just as goofy and enjoyable as you think it would be from that brief description.

The movie begins with a group of scientists trying to control the overpopulation of rabbits by injecting them with a serum to stop them from breeding. Unfortunately, it turns them into wolf-sized, carnivorous killing machines. (Cue the overused shot of zooming in on the face of somebody helplessly screaming while their friend/lover/family member puts up a not-so-good fight for their life nearby. It happens quite a few times in this film.)

For a ‘70s movie about giant rabbits, you’d almost expect this to be a spoof of all the cheesy ‘50s horror movies that upsized every other animal or insect. NIGHT OF THE LEPUS, which mysteriously got the talents of Janet Leigh (PYSCHO) and DeForest Kelley (Dr. “Bones” McCoy in the original STAR TREK series) involved, plays like a straight horror movie with many unintentional laughs. One moment where an officer of the law goes to a drive-in movie theater to alert the townspeople there are “herds of giant killer rabbits” heading there way is comedy gold. In fact, most of the scenes when people are killed are funny, because the filmmakers use a combination of real-life bunnies (shot to appear larger than they are by having the rabbits run through model sets of the town) and controlled props or suits. The film is a great companion piece with OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN, another Scream Factory release we reviewed last month.

As long as you know what you’re stepping into (a silly scenario, a surprisingly fast pace and that bunny from MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL x 500 or so), you will have a great time with NIGHT OF THE LEPUS.

Grade: B

Extras: The Scream Factory release comes with some great original cover art, two new insightful audio commentaries by author Lee Gambin and pop culture historian Russell Dyball, a theatrical trailer, a TV and radio spot, and a still gallery.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.