Night of the Lepus (1972) (part 4 of 10)
After a brief shot of Gerry, Cole, and a ranch hand loading some more bunnies into a cage, we cut to Amanda hanging out again with Cole’s Son. Amanda protests that “Romeo” (her new pet) isn’t a bad rabbit, but Cole’s Son ain’t having any of this. He tells her to get that gosh-durn rabbit out of his sight, or else “I won’t be your friend!” You know, for a couple of kids who just met, these two have a pretty dysfunctional relationship.
Cole’s Son then grabs the rabbit out of Amanda’s arms and tosses it to the ground, yelling, “Those darn rabbits killed my chickens!” But he’s not bitter. And the best part is that they have him mention his chickens getting killed, instead of the horse we actually saw get (indirectly) killed by bunnies at the start of the movie. Beautiful.
“Romeo” quickly runs off and scampers into a bunny hole with some other rabbits. Hmm. “Romeo”. Given the breeding habits of bunnies, there sure is nothing ironic about that name, is there?
Cole’s Son then has the quickest crisis of conscience ever recorded, and apologizes half a second later. Amanda shrugs, and makes him promise he won’t tell Mommy that the rabbit got away. Cole’s Son agrees to this sinister subterfuge and the two wander off. Ah, kids. They do the darndest things. Like, you know, initiating a sequence of events that leads to the deaths of about a dozen people. Stuff like that.
Back at the lab, Roy and Gerry observe that some of the rabbits have gotten healthier and larger instead of that whole “sick and dying” thing they were supposed to be doing. That is one amazing serum, guys.
And to illustrate, they’ve taken a small rabbit and placed it next to a larger rabbit. Movie magic! Actually, this might be the best (i.e., least laughable) rabbit-related special effect in the movie.
Needless to say, this isn’t the result that Roy and Gerry were going for, so it seems inevitable that Cole will have no other recourse but to poison the land.
Roy, however, wants to warn Cole one last time about the devastating effects of cyanide. We don’t see it, and no one mentions it, but I’ll assume Roy persuaded Cole off-screen not to use poison, because the movie cuts to Cole and a few ranch hands dousing the land with gasoline instead. Cole explains to another rancher that he’s going to start a fire to deprive the rabbits of food. That really doesn’t sound like a significantly better alternative to using poison, but let’s just run with it.
Sure enough, a guy lights a torch and starts setting the land on fire. Bunnies frantically scurry away from the black smoke and flames, in a way that you just know is going to be trouble later on. Believe me, bunnies don’t take this kind of shit lightly.
After the fire has burned itself out, Cole and the Bennetts ride horses out to survey the barren plain. They all dismount near a watering hole, and Gerry notices a large footprint. Cole says that the animal that made the print must be about “100, 150 pounds”, and Roy theorizes it might be a mountain lion. Bzzt! Thanks for playing, professor.
A few feet away, Amanda and Cole’s Son are following on horseback. Cole’s Son says he wants to introduce Amanda to a friend of his named “Captain Billy”, who’s “got a gold mine over those hills back there!”
Cole’s Son stammers, “I—uh—I asked your ma, she says it’s okay.” This is like one of those educational videos that’s supposed to teach kids not to go with strangers. I half-expect Mr. T to step in front of the camera and remind us that when a strange man offers to introduce you to “Captain Billy”, you should take two steps back, and get ready to run.
Amanda and Cole’s Son ride over to Captain Billy’s gold mine. Cole’s Son looks inside a shack and doesn’t see Billy, so he tells Amanda to go look in the nearby mineshaft while he searches the shack. Oh, that’s nice. Let the little girl walk into the dark, scary cave, while you just chill out where it’s safe and free of killer bunnies. “Gowwwon!” the boy yells, without moving his lips.
Amanda runs off towards the mine, and in the background we hear her voice get all echo-y as she calls out for Captain Billy. Cole’s Son then pokes around Billy’s shack some more, until he accidentally knocks a shelf off the wall and spills a lot of white powder. No, there really wasn’t a point to that, but it does make me wonder if Captain Billy has a substance abuse problem we should know about.
In the mineshaft, Amanda sees the shadow of a giant bunny, which stops her in her tracks. Before she can get away, she’s attacked by a huge rabbit. And this “attack” is mostly represented by cutting quickly back and forth between Amanda screaming, and a tight close-up of a bunny rabbit’s face hilariously smeared with blood.
Eventually, we cut to a sweaty Amanda tossing and turning under a blanket. Despite my fondest wishes, this doesn’t mean the whole movie was a bad dream. Instead, Amanda and her parents are at Cole’s ranch, where a doctor is making a house call. He tells Gerry that her daughter only has a “mild case of shock”, and appearing to be a sagacious fellow, he gets out of this movie as quickly as he can.
Cole interrogates his son about what happened out there, but the kid says he didn’t see anything. Gerry insists Amanda wasn’t imagining things, because she’s “just too sensible!” Not from my vantage point, lady. Did you see the part where she screwed up your whole rabbit experiment for no reason? Oh, that’s right, you didn’t see that. Well, take it from me, it was pretty fucking stupid of her.
Suddenly, Amanda wakes up and starts screaming, “Daddy! Daddy!”, even though her mother’s right next to her. Roy walks over to comfort her, and then hands her off to Gerry, saying he’s going to go talk to Wheelchair Genius Guy about what Amanda says she saw.
Some unspecified time later, a semi rolls along the highway at night. The driver decides it’s a good time to become rabbit food, so he pulls off on the side of the road. He then hops out and opens up the back of his trailer and looks at… nothing in particular. This important task accomplished, he’s about to take off, when suddenly he hears growling noises and a loud pitter-patter of footsteps.
Just like most of us would do upon hearing strange animalistic noises in the dead of night in the middle of nowhere, he grabs a flashlight and investigates. There’s some heavy breathing, followed by a tight close-up of a bunny hilariously baring its buckteeth. The driver tries to back off, but it’s too late. The rabbit attacks (I assume), and the trucker screams like a woman, and the look on his face is just… just… You know, words fail me here. So here’s a screencap.
It’s suddenly the next day, and the truck is still parked on the side of the road when a sheriff’s deputy rolls up. The deputy investigates, making the “shock” discovery of the truck driver’s body all drenched in stage blood like this is the prom scene from Carrie.
At least, I’m assuming the deputy discovers the body. What we actually see is the deputy looking straight ahead, expressionless, followed by an abrupt cut to the body. And for maximum shock! effect, this is accompanied by a loud, blaring siren which continues on into the next scene.
Cut to two other police cars pulling up to the scene. One of them carries Sheriff Cody, who quite coincidentally is played by Paul Fix.
True Star Trek geeks will recognize Paul Fix as Dr. Mark Piper, Chief Medical Officer on the USS Enterprise. What, you don’t remember him? Maybe that’s because he was replaced after one episode by DeForest Kelley, who just so happens to be his co-star in this movie.
So does this mean there’s something about playing a Star Trek doctor that means you eventually end up in crap movies like this? The career of Robert Picardo would seem to support this theory.
Sheriff Cody gets out of his car and says, “Well, now, what’s so urgent?” You mean, when the deputy called this in, he didn’t bother to mention he found a mutilated body? Now there’s some crack police work for you.
They walk over to the body and the sheriff takes a look. “What did they use on him?” he says, horrified. “An axe?” Nope, just lousy special effects. But the end result is just as painful.
The deputy adds to the implied horror here by saying he’s “never seen someone cut up so bad!” Just then, another deputy beckons the sheriff over to the car, because there’s a call for him on the radio. Well, I have to assume it’s the radio, because the sheriff gets handed a normal telephone receiver. Cody hears a report of another body found in a similar condition. The other victim is an “old prospector” who was found in a mineshaft, “hacked up to pieces”. Farewell, Captain Billy, we hardly knew ye.