Night of the Lepus (1972) Movie Review
Written By: Angela DiLella
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: William F. Claxton
Producers: A.C. Lyles
Writers: Don Holliday and Gene R. Kearney, based on The Year of the Angry Rabbit by Russell Braddon
Date Released: July 26, 1972
Stuart Whitman as Roy Bennett
Janet Leigh as Gerry Bennett
DeForest Kelley as Elgin
Rating = 2/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
Experimental hormonal drugs are tested on a population of invasive rabbits, but two of the unexpected side effects are unchecked growth and insatiable bloodlust.
There are many victims of the vicious rabbits, but the blood is unmistakably paint and the corpses breathe. Rabbit lovers will find it harder to watch shots of rabbits being dispatched, as some are done with clever effects that look real, and other instances appear to have just been real.
The Grave Review
I’m not going to say that this movie managed to make rabbits terrifying and have completely reversed my personal opinions on rabbits. However, I can praise the movie and source book for taking a real-life issue (rabbit overpopulation in Australia) and using that to create a horror movie premise, no matter how silly it seems. I can also give the crew credit for trying to make the rabbits as scary as possible, spreading what appears to be jam on rabbit mouths for blood, taking advantage of rabbit yawns, and even adding sound effects and shaky camera effects when the “giant” rabbits running to make it seem as if they have real weight. It doesn’t really invoke horror, especially for rabbit owners who will recognize some behavior as that of happy or calm rabbits, but it seems like the cast and crew did their best with the story they had in front of them.
Although the movie’s quality of cast is higher than what you may expect from a movie like Night of the Lepus, it’s no shock that no one went home with any Oscars for this film. Even Janet Leigh, an alumnus of movies such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) and Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil (1958), is easy to overlook. Then again, can we blame her for being unwilling, or more likely unable, to pull out the stops for a movie about giant killer rabbits?
Night of the Lepus (1972) is probably only memorable at this point for its unusual premise, though the effects work deserves praise. Superimposed shots are done surprisingly carefully, and when rabbits are meant to be attacking herds of horses and cows, the cuts are done well enough that though I couldn’t suspend my disbelief, I could appreciate how well they were done. Usually, such cuts are done rather clumsily in killer animal movies, but the film editors put their time into making it work as well as it possibly could. The miniature sets are also well built, and I often found myself peering around the rabbits to try and catch poor builds because I didn’t quite believe the level of quality I was seeing from a movie about giant killer rabbits. When the rabbits were on their own, it worked to some degree, though rabbit attacks on humans were almost all done by what was clearly a man in fuzzy footie pajamas. (They should have just had the actors shake bags of treats!)
As a rabbit owner, this movie was both vexing for the fact that some of the effects that looked too real, and oddly effective at times for the fact that it made it easy to imagine what my rabbit would do if she was gigantic (she would attack me for limiting treat consumption). I don’t know if this is the sort of movie anyone really watches more than once, but if you like the subgenre, you should at least give it the one watch.
For the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives Night of the Lepus (1972) two graves out of five graves.
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