I love holiday horror films. To me, they demonstrate the genre's ongoing commitment to ruining even the happiest of occasions with visions of nightmarish terror. There was a time when Halloween was the only holiday associated with evil and darkness and that set it apart as the isolated capsule of fear. But then, one by one, the other, more joyful, holidays became targets for horror interpretations. It's gotten to the point that no festive celebration is without its own signature slasher or identifiable bloodbath.
We innaguarated both this project and 2010 with the delightfully bad New Year's Evil. In February, we aimed for the heart with the incredibly romantic My Bloody Valentine. Last month, the brilliant Mike Bracken took us to the Emerald Isle for a St. Patrick's Day feast of Dead Meat. Many, many thanks to Mr. Bracken for helping out last month by the way. And in honor of April's reverent and unavoidably religious celebration of dead saviors returning to life, I thought it only appropriate to probe the false meaning of Easter with the all-too-ridiculous Night of the Lepus.
Night of the Lepus is the prophetic depiction of our planet after the inevitable rabbit uprising. Basically farmers across the globe got so tired of dealing with coyotes that they abusively employed pesticides and the resulting coyote holocaust gave rise to a brand new problem: rabbit overpopulation. Suddenly several countries are suffering from the most adorable plague ever conceived by man and top scientists are being called upon to create resolutions. One such scientist, our protagonist, is searching for a pesticide-free solution. Through an unforeseen turn of events, the scientist's daughter releases a rabbit injected with an experimental serum; the side effects proving disastrous. Suddenly this small town is besieged by giant, hippity-hoppity nightmares. Can our hero reverse the effects of his serum? How many will pay the ultimate price for a society perpetually playing God? Have you ever seen anything so adorable in your life?
Easter happened to fall in April this year which provided a more interesting holiday horror opportunity than the far more obvious April Fool's Day. But with the decision to administer such an irreverent perspective to such a holy day offered a fresh subset of challenges. The resurrection aspect of the story opened the floor to any number of zombie films but I found that too imprecise. When I was educated on the existence of a killer bunny horror film, I felt divine intervention at work.
I don't think I need to tell you that this is not a good film. The premise alone is a colossal roadblock against it being a legitimate horror film. There is nothing even remotely scary about giant bunnies, no matter how much slow-mo you use or how fervently you attest to their massive size. You cannot make furry, floppy-eared herbivores frightening and any attempt to do so only comes off as absurd. My favorite part of Night of the Lepus is that they go so far as to add various type of loud growls to the rabbit hordes in a failed effort to bolster their menace. I spent most of the movie rolling on the floor, laughing at the idiotic scenes of bunnies out for blood.
The concept is completely laughable and conceding early on that it is a horror film failure would typically allow for other avenues of enjoyment. I mean hell, the film features DeForest Kelley in his last non-Star Trek film role and stars Psycho's Janet Leigh so there should be something entertaining to be mined here right? Wrong. Ironically its biggest problem with Night of the Lepus is not its concept but its pacing. It is just plain dull and flat-lines on more than one occasion. The scenes of normal sized, actual rabbits being portrayed as mammoth monsters are inadvertently hilarious and quite fun, but the intervals between could stand a significant trim.
I guess if there were one nice thing I could say about Night of the Lepus, it's that I like it for its nostalgia factor. By that, I don't mean that this was a movie that used to prompt me to hide beneath my covers as a child; in fact I hadn't heard of it up until a couple of weeks ago. The nostalgia inherent in Night of the Lepus is that it is a throwback to the 50's, Sci-Fi creature features. In films like The Giant Gila Monster or Beginning of the End, actual animals are filmed against a number of miniatures to bear false witness as to the size of that animal. This was a cheap, passable trick that someone resonated with teens in the 50's and therefore saturated theaters. Night of the Lepus features several of those familiar gimmicks and the scientist being integral to the story is further reminiscent of these films. But I'm not sure how much of this is homage and how much was part and parcel with making a giant, killer rabbit movie.
So paint your eggs, hide them, and then let sticky-fingered kids search for them...as it is written in the good book (nowhere). But if those kids start getting on your nerves singing that damn Peter Cottontail song, subject them to Night of the Lepus and see if they ever again sit on the Easter Bunny's lap at the mall.