Night of the Lepus

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
The movie is nowhere near as scary as this poster... but you knew that, right?
"Attention! Attention! Ladies and gentlemen, attention! There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way and we desperately need your help!"
Officer Lopez

Another legendary bad movie. This is the story of how Doctor McCoy (OK, OK, DeForest Kelley, but in a really orange turtleneck) helped Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh and Rory Calhoun save the world from a herd of Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits.

No, really. The idea is that experimental hormone injections intended to stop the rabbits breeding, as an environmentally friendly form of pest control, actually causes them to become Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits. One dosed-up bunny escapes into the wild and starts breeding with the local population. Suddenly there are hordes of Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits running around, and it's all very ironic. Or something.

In the interests of total fairness, wild rabbits can be surprisingly vicious when pushed to it (ask anyone who's ever read Watership Down). But trying to cast them as menacing, growling monsters with a lust for human flesh is...proof that when this idea was greenlit the studio execs had just emerged from a decade spent under a rock, being whacked with a stupid stick. The clearly miniscule SFX budget doesn't help.

Eventually, Our Heroes drive the 'shambling hordes' over some electrified train tracks, and the viewer is left to imagine them spending the rest of their lives trying to convince people of how brave they were, saving the world from Thumper.

Interestingly, this movie was famously not featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, despite the show having mentioned it a couple of times, indicating that its creators were aware of Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits. One can only assume they could not resolve the licensing issues (with a much more prominent studio than is usual among their targets)... or else they thought it would be just too easy. The Agony Booth, however, has no such difficulty.

It was, however, featured in the background of a scene in The Matrix. In the brief scene where children are levitating blocks, the television in the background shows off a scene with Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits hopping down a street. This is even pointed out in the Rifftrax of The Matrix where they marvel at how huge the rabbits in the background are, so it looks like Mike Nelson and his friends finally got to riff on Night of the Lepus, even if it was for only one line.

Tropes used in Night of the Lepus include:
  • Adaptation Distillation: Albeit chances are you've never heard of the novel.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever
  • B-Movie: It's hard to believe a major studio (MGM) paid for this movie, let alone ponied up for a decent cast... but they did.
  • Carnivore Confusion / Kill All Humans: The strictly-herbivorous rabbits lust for flesh after becoming giant-sized, and though they do attack some horses and cattle, man is the main dish on their menu. Is there a trope for animals completely altering their diet when they become giant/armored/whatever?
  • Casting Gag: Paul Fixx, who plays Sheriff Cody, was Dr. Piper in the second Star Trek pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before", before being replaced by DeForest Kelley's Dr. McCoy for the rest of the series.
  • Chroma Key: Very badly done.
  • Covers Always Lie: Or at least, misdirect.
    • Likewise for the title. The studio was obviously counting on moviegoers not knowing what "Lepus" means.
  • Disaster Movie: With Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits
  • Film of the Book: According to the credits anyway. Since they used a different title and completely different plot it isn't clear why they bothered.
  • Hair-Raising Hare. Well. It's what they were gunning for.
  • Hollywood Science: Hey, let's see what this totally unknown serum does to rabbits! Then we can leave a young child alone with them!
  • Karma Houdini: No one ever calls out the little girl on switching the bunnies, or the boy who allowed the dosed-up one to escape.
  • Kill It with Fire
  • Monochrome Casting: There's only one black character in the entire movie (Dr. Leopold), and amazingly, he doesn't die.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer goes out of its way to avoid show any Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits, which, in this review, raises the question: if you realize Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits aren't scary, why would you still make a movie about them?
  • No Pronunciation Guide: Everybody throughout the movie pronounces Lepus as either "Leap-Us" or "Leh-Pus".
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Actually, everything is scarier than Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: Because they're Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits
  • People in Rubber Suits: The Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits actually required to attack? Those are guys in bunny suits.
  • The Professor
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Played straight to Fridge Logic levels. Really now -- if you told a local sheriff that there are Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits heading towards town, they'd automatically assume you're either drunk or hiding a candid camera. The authorities in the movie, by contrast, seem perfectly OK with this concept.
    • And people consider them this too. There's a great scene where one police officer interrupts a showing at a drive-in theater to ask for assistance in dealing with a herd of Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits. Not ONE person in the entire drive-in as much as raises an eyebrow and they all just immediately obey.
  • The Seventies: And how!
  • Shout-Out: If you look carefully, you can see a few seconds of this movie on the TV when Neo walks into the Oracle's apartment.
    • Bits of footage also appear in the movie Natural Born Killers, mixed in with the other odd bits that spot the film here and there.
    • Also appears in a flashback in an episode of Everybody Hates Chris, explaining Julius' rabbit phobia.
  • Slow Motion: Used to make bunnies on miniature sets look big and ponderous. This fails spectacularly.

And did we mention Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits.