Night of the Lepus: Can Giant ‘Killer’ rabbits Be Scary?

If you didn’t know, animals can be pretty scary. Zoophobia refers to the general fear of animals. Not surprisingly, horror movies have exploited the more obvious choices. Are you afraid of spiders? If so, you’re not alone. Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders and several horror movies have dangled these eight-legged beasts into our laps. There’s movies about killer dogs (cynophobia), killer reptiles (herpetophobia), killer fish (ichthyophobia) and, yes, killer worms (helminthophobia). Apparently, even rabbits scare some people. Though it’s extremely rare, leporiphobia is the fear of rabbits. And as eco-horror emerged in the 1970s, someone made a movie called Night of the Lepus.


Somewhere in Texas, hordes of hungry rabbits are ravaging local farmers’ crops. In an effort to curb the rabbit population, two college scientists test an experimental hormone on a handful of lab rabbits. But when one of the test subjects escapes into the wild, it immediately begins breeding with the local rabbit population. Almost overnight, a new breed of giant mutant rabbits infests the small town. And they’re hungry for human flesh.

Night of the Lepus Delivers Killer Rabbits with Predictably Hilarious Results

Night of the Lepus answers a burning question – can you make bunny rabbits scary? In short, the answer is no. Nonetheless, this low-budget 70’s eco-horror entry tries pretty damn hard. Keep in mind, there was no CGI in the 1970s. Instead, Night of the Lepus uses adorable pet store rabbits with just about any camera trick one can imagine. Behold as these monstrosities rampage across obviously miniature sets. Sometimes they run quickly, sometimes they run in slow motion. Occasionally, an actor wearing a bunny suit stands in for the rabbits to do poorly edited close-up shots. Director William F Claxton pipes in dubbed over growls and stampeding sounds to remind audiences that these are mutant rabbits.

Behold as these monstrosities rampage across obviously miniature sets. Sometimes they run quickly, somethings they run in slow motion.

Technically, all of the above make Night of the Lepus a bad movie. Still everyone in the movie plays the concept deadly serious. It’s this earnestness that makes Night of the Lepus so much fun to watch. Neither Claxton nor his cast ever hint that they’re in on the joke. As a result, this B-movie becomes an unintentionally hilarious viewing experience. It’s almost impossible to be bored watching this movie. Everything about it is so preposterous that you can’t help but have fun. When a rabbit breaks up from the desert floor in a glorious slow-motion close-up, I dare you not to laugh out loud.

Night of the Lepus’ Best Special Effect May Be Its Cast

Arguably, Night of the Lepus’ biggest question mark concerns its cast. Somehow this low-budget killer rabbit flick casted actual credible actors. Yes, the same Janet Leigh (Psycho, The Fog) who once worked with Alfred Hitchcock is present. Veteran character actors Rory Calhoun and Stuart Whitman recite the horrible dialogue with straight faces. And Star Trek fans will find a miscast Deforrest Kelly looking lost. Maybe their agents convinced them that eco-horror was set to be all the rage. Or perhaps the producer bribed them to be in this movie. Whatever the reason, decent actors pretending to be terrified of mutant rabbits just makes this movie all the more entertaining.

Night of the Lepus is Why We Have the Term, Midnight Movie

There is absolutely no doubt – Night of the Lepus is a bad movie. No, it’s not just a bad movie. It’s a completely ridiculous movie made all the more silly by the fact that everyone involved seems so earnest. Whomever thought bunny rabbits could be scary probably should have considered an instant career change. Who convinced the reputable cast to star in this movie? And yet it’s all these things that make Night of the Lepus so much fun. Truth be told, the opening credits made me laugh out loud. Simply put, Night of the Lepus is cat nip for bad movie-lovers. Watch it with your friends late at night with drinks. You’ll have a blast.


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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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