Ever since Hitchcock’s The Birds there’s been no shortage of killer animal movies just about every year. This fascination with creepy critters seemed to culminate in the 70s when these films were a dime a dozen. You had films like; Frogs, Kingdom of the Spiders, Grizzly, Squirm, Day of the Animals, Empire of the Ants, Dracula’s Dog that came out like clockwork, but Night of the Lepus, there was something special about that one. Sure most of these films were stupid, but at least the animals featured in most of them had some potential to be deadly. Ants, spiders, bears, hell even some frogs can secrete toxins, but rabbits? Cute, cuddly, innocent, little rabbits? The fact that anyone thought an audience would be afraid of rabbits boggles the mind but really you can’t believe it till you see it.
So the setup is that thousands of rabbits have invaded a southwestern town after all their natural predators (coyotes) were somehow eliminated. So this rancher (Rory Calhoun) wants a very seventies looking Deforest “Bones” Kelley playing a college president to find a way to thin the rabbit population along with two other researchers (Stuart Whitman and Janet Leigh.) So they experiment with a test rabbit, a little girl falls in love with it, the rabbit escapes and the next thing you know there’s giant killer rabbits I guess. What’s a surprise about all this is the first half of the film actually seems pretty competent. This film follows a ridiculous premise yes, but the acting is good and the campiness is kept to a minimum. Then you have the reveal of the giant rabbits and all hope is lost.
It’s the fact that this film takes itself so seriously that hampers it the most. This solemn tone works okay in the first half but by the time the giant rabbits show up it’s embarrassing. Maybe it could have passed it the rabbits were even remotely scary but they’re just regular rabbits that only look big due to some not so impressive camera techniques. The rabbits rarely seem to interact with the other actors on screen, rather we only see them constantly running towards the camera in slow motion. So from their reveal to their fateful demise (they eventually get electrocuted on some train tracks) this is a total suck fest, oh yes and of course it ends on an ambiguous note. “Some of them survived?” ugh, that’s all folks.
Here’s a rabbit attack clip, it’s a little fuzzy but it’s there in all it’s glory.