Night of the Lepus (1972) (part 7 of 10)
Meanwhile, Cole is herding his blanket-clad wife and son down into the storm cellar. He then runs back inside to call Mildred the operator, but as the fates would have it, Jud manages to plow his truck head-on into the only telephone pole on the property.
Cole’s phone goes dead at the precise moment he’s about to explain to Mildred what’s going on. Sorry, Cole. Perhaps you should have put things a bit more succinctly. Yelling “Giant bunnies! Giant bunnies!” probably wouldn’t have been too far out of line.
Jud, seeming to think he’ll have better luck against the bunnies on foot, jumps out of his truck and makes a run for it. Unfortunately, he trips on some unidentified whatsabobbit, and ends up in a truly dreadful greenscreen shot where he struggles to get to his feet while superimposed bunnies run up on him.
Finally, through the use of giant-size fuzzy earmuffs, the bunnies maul Jud. Tough break, huh? Still, I wasn’t calling him a “red shirt” for nothing. And when they’re done, we get a comical zoom-in on bunny fangs covered in Jud’s blood.
Cole comes out of his house and sees a dozen slow-motion bunnies all swarming around Jud’s pickup. He aims his shotgun and blasts away at them, and bunnies jerk around as blood spurts from their necks, and it’s pretty obvious this effect was achieved by strapping exploding squibs to the necks of poor little bunny rabbits. I do believe this movie earned the Humane Society’s Seal of “Oh Hell No”.
The rabbits overrun Cole’s ranch, and going by this shot, Cole apparently had his entire ranch covered over with Astroturf recently. Cole locks himself inside the storm cellar, and he and Red Shirt #1 listen to loud bunny steps thundering overhead.
And then somehow, the greenscreen work gets even more shoddy, as we actually see bunnies pass directly through the telephone pole that Jud knocked over. Seriously, at what point did the filmmakers stop giving a shit?
Cole hears some bunnies scratching at the cellar door, and fires through the door at them. This leads to some truly alien-sounding shrieks, while stuffed bunny rabbits are sent flipping through the air, and geysers of fake blood squirt everywhere.
There’s a shot of a rabbit jumping in through the kitchen window, which then leads to the bunnies claiming a scale model of the kitchen as their own. Cole blasts a few of them through the floor, but this doesn’t seem to disturb their pig-out session at all.
To the horror of Cole and his family, one of the floorboards above their heads starts to crack under the weight of these huge rabbits (even though earlier, Cole said they weighed at most about 150 pounds). A bunny extends his mutant-size paw down through the floorboards, but Cole and Red Shirt #1 take turns blasting away at it, until bunny blood starts leaking through the bullet holes in the ceiling.
Amusingly, the effect of the bunny being shot through the floor was obviously achieved by setting a dead stuffed rabbit on top of an exploding squib. It’s kind of tough not to notice the stiff position of the legs as the bunny bounces off the walls of the scale model kitchen.
Cut to Mildred the Operator, and we find out that not only does she run the local switchboard, but also the town’s general store. She walks over to two yokels playing checkers and tells them that the phone line to Cole Hillman’s house just went out. Mildred is concerned, because he seemed “mighty agitated” when he called.
In response, the two yokels leisurely finish their game of checkers. The older yokel, who I’ll call Bubba, asks the younger yokel, who I’ll call Cletus (believe me, I would have called him “Jud” if this movie hadn’t already supplied a character by that name) if they should go check on Cole. Cletus says he’s got some hick stuff to do early the next morning, so the idea is quickly nixed. They bid Mildred goodnight and both head off.
The camera stays on Mildred, as she feels a chill and pulls her sweater closed, letting us know in this movie’s typically subtle way that Something Bad is about to happen to her. Sure enough, Dark Side of the Moon is heard approaching off in the distance. But to be honest, I’m never quite sure if the characters in this movie can actually hear these noises, or if it’s like that “Banner’s getting angry!” chord.
Mildred, either hearing the noises or getting an intuitive sense of her impending doom, opens the door and looks down the street, but sees nothing.
She starts shivering, since Pink Floyd can do that to a person, and heads back inside. Meanwhile, there’s heavy breathing, and a shot of the empty road. The camera pans past a couple of highway signs, and eventually a forced perspective bunny wanders into the frame. Soon, a whole herd of rabbits is coming down the road, and they’ve all got a taste for spinster blood!
Mildred turns back to the door and sees the rabbits, but does little else besides stand in one place and let her mouth hang open. In the most riotous moment yet, a big furry thing that’s supposed to be a giant bunny flies through the front window, knocking Mildred to the floor and covering her neck with stage blood. Amazingly, with her throat supposedly being viciously clawed, she still finds the ability to scream like a banshee.
Cut to Cletus and Bubba driving up to Bubba’s house. Bubba is let out, and he heads up to his front porch, but stops in his tracks when he hears Dark Side of the Moon approaching. He warily looks around, but sees nothing, and continues to his front door.
A moment later, Bubba turns around again and sees the bunny stampede, and much like fellow hick Mildred, he just blankly stares at them as they approach.
Instead of, oh, I don’t know, going inside maybe, Bubba decides to pick up a chair on his porch and take a swing at the rabbits. Not the wisest course of action it would seem, because one bunny jumps on him and sends him crashing through his front window. Long story short, the rabbit chows down on Bubba as we fade out on more slow-motion shots of the bunny herd on the move.
And so, ladies and gentleman, this concludes our mutant killer bunny rampage for the evening. The sunrise is shown, accompanied by the sound of flutes. Everything’s peaceful now, so we’re apparently meant to believe that growing to giant size not only makes bunnies vicious and bloodthirsty, and able to outrun a pickup truck, but also… nocturnal? Well, now they’ve gone too far.
Actually, other than the very brief attack at Captain Billy’s shack, we’ll only ever see the bunnies attacking at night. Clearly, this was a deliberate attempt to cover up the limitations of the special effects budget. Because you can’t have giant bunnies attacking during the daytime; That would just look ridiculous.