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

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.